After having seen him perform stand up comedy at Caroline’s in New York City, I discovered the exciting, charismatic, and hilarious stand up comic named Shane Snider. He just so happens to be the son of the legendary frontman for Twisted Sister, Dee Snider. I recently got to talk with him about comedy, music, having your dad be Dee Snider, and finding out Shane’s path and where he’s headed next.
Alex Obert: What have you been up to today?
Shane Snider: Today, I was just at work and now I’m talking to you and after we’re done, I’m gonna be doing a web series with a couple guys from my comedy group.
AO: What’s that about? Tell me what you do there.
SS: I have a comedy group called The Brawlers. It’s mostly an improv group. A couple of members are working on this show, they’re trying to get it off the ground. It’s called Spaced Out Earth Show. It’s nothing super fancy. It’s not really my passion project, it’s more just like a favor that I’m doing for them. Just trying to get stuff online, you know. I’ve been working on doing a movie with my brother.
AO: What’s going on there?
SS: Me and my younger brother, Cody, and I wrote a film together. He directed it and I acted in it. It’s a short film called Fool’s Day. It was short, nineteen minutes. It headlined the Tribeca, killed there. Just played at Cannes Film Festival, it’s gonna be at Palm Spring’s Film Festival. And next week, I think it’ll play in D.C. A couple weeks after that, it’s basically going to be playing all over the world pretty soon, or already, I guess. We are in talks with everybody from FOX to Disney to Paramount. We’ve talked to them about developing the feature, so we’re working on the feature script right now, the third draft. That’s really the biggest project on my plate right now.
AO: Tell me about your comedy background, how you got into doing stand up comedy.
SS: I came to New York City, originally for acting. I started not feeling at home going to school for acting, it felt kind of weird, so I switched over to writing. I was in a sketch group and an improv group. A friend of mine started getting me into open mics and then I started doing stand up. I guess this was like seven years ago, 2006ish or 5ish, something like that. So I started doing stand up. I did some college competitions. I did a lot of open mics and stuff, but then Mick Foley, I guess this might have been like a year ago or so, asked me to do open for him and I did the Long Island circuit for a little while. I performed at Strawberry’s for a little while. I got a decent crowd there. And then just again recently, I roasted my Dad because they saw me on Growing Up Twisted doing stand up and Mick asked if I wanted to open up for him at Caroline’s. And that’s kind of the way it’s going right now, hoping we can do some more spots there.
AO: How I was introduced to you was seeing you open for Mick Foley at Caroline’s. Take me through that day, in regards to how you prepare for a show and getting to the place and getting ready and going up on stage and what you do after.
SS: I woke up around ten or eleven, ate a big breakfast, no meat because meat tends to make me sleepy. I also try to eat a lot of avocado. And then I don’t eat again for the rest of the day because otherwise, I feel like I’m gonna throw up. And then I rehearse my set, basically on a repeat. And if I think of any new lines, or ways to do a joke quicker, or ways to make something better, things I can reference, I’ll incorporate them and rehearse them real quick. I actually, that day, went down to Astoria Park and just walked around the park, acting out my set in a big loop, which I got a lot of crazy looks for. (laughs)
And then from there, I went down to the club, I took the train down, walked down there. I was rehearsing in the back, I had my suit and a new jacket in a garbage bag and people quickly did not believe that I was a performer. I was like, “I brought a suit in a bag! What more do you need?” So basically, it was whatever. I went back there and rehearsed because I was really nervous. I interned at Caroline’s years ago back when I was only doing stand up a year or two. So there were people there I kind of knew vaguely. They’d be like, “Hey, you used to work here or something!” I know that Caroline’s is one of the biggest comedy clubs around, maybe in the world, so it was especially nerve racking. And then I basically just went up and did my thing and Mad Dog, the MC, got a really amazing round of applause, so when I got up there, I felt good. And that’s kind of my whole story.
AO: How did you develop a relationship with Mick Foley?
SS: My father, Dee Snider, in case you couldn’t tell from my set, he had interviewed Mick for his radio show years ago. Then it turns out that Mick lives on Long Island, not only on Long Island, but nearby us, so they developed a relationship. Mick started showing up at family events and New Year’s parties and stuff like that. Then, he actually asked me if he could put something in his book about me. It was the first time we ever had a full conversation and I was like, “What are you putting in the book?” And it was actually a line in one of the books, which is a true story, that he came to one of my dad’s shows and my dad was jumping splits in the middle of the set. And after the show, we were talking, “Oh, it was a great show! Great show!” He says, “Man, your dad’s really limber up there! That’s pretty impressive!” And I was like, “Yeah! Yeah, he does a lot of yoga.” And Mick laughed to himself and went, “I don’t think your dad would want you going around telling people that he does yoga.” I said, “My dad dressed in women’s clothing for a living. I don’t think he cares if people knows he does some stretching from time to time.” And he put that story in the book. Then he put, “And just like that, I was shut up by an eighteen year old.”
I had only seen him from time to time, but he’s a really great guy. He’s really supportive. He came to our film premiere. He’s always been around. He acted in my brother’s first film, doing a cameo in it. And he kind of knew that I had been doing comedy for a while. He asked me to send him a tape one day, so I sent him a DVD and he basically just invited me to do it at a Long Island venue, a much lower stakes show than the Caroline’s one. And it went great. I killed one of his shows, brought a bunch of people, then the next show I killed, and he’s been staying in contact with me ever since.
AO: What’s your thoughts on him and his set?
SS: I’ll say that Caroline’s set was the best I’ve ever seen him. The first several times I opened for him, he wasn’t very focused, I’ll say. He was definitely going from thought to thought, just kind of telling stories. But he’s really developed it. He’s really come a long way. His storytelling is very strong. He tells an amazing story and I could hear him backstage when he was telling sound guys what sound cues to do, what moment to play the sound cues, and he even did a thing for like, “Okay, we hug. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, go!” That’s when the sound kicks in. So I’m actually pretty impressed with his set, especially having opened for his earlier shows, I could see how much he’s learned about comedy in such a small time. And now, he’s advertising himself as a storyteller, which I think is the right way to do it. I think Mick Foley doing stand up is misleading, it should be “Mick Foley tells some great stories”. And he’s awesome, man, he’s a legend for a reason. And you’ve gotta respect him, not only for being one badass motherfucker, who basically single-handedly, created hardcore wrestling as we know it, but he’s an intelligent, smart guy, good guy, nice guy, and he has kept his mind about him well enough that he can still write and tell stories and even though he can’t put his clothes on. (laughs)
AO: Since it’s common knowledge that he’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, and he’s written several books, do you think that you someday would write a book about your life?
SS: You know, I would hope so. I think writing a book about your life means that there are people around who care. And I definitely think I have, at least some sort of an interesting story to tell and there’s something I’ve kind of had to acknowledge in my life and I acknowledge it in my stand up too, that growing up with a rockstar father is curious, to say the least. A lot of people have asked me over my life, “What’s that like?” And it’s not like an easy thing to sum up, but it’s not a bad thing to talk about. It’s interesting and weird and fun and awkward and I guess people are intrigued by it. And hopefully that won’t be the only reason I’d be writing a book in the future, I’d like to think I’ll be accomplishing my own feats and be a well known comedian and yadda yadda yadda. At that time, I hope people will be interested enough in my story, so that I may be able to write a book about my own life.
AO: I was watching The Roast of Dee Snider and when you went up on stage, talking about being his son and trying to pick up chicks that way, what was it like roasting your own dad and some of the other stars that were there?
SS: Oh my God, that was scary as shit, man. I’ll be totally honest. Josh Bernstein, who was the head producer for the Rock n’ Roll Roast, amazing guy, called me up, kind of out of the blue and was like, “I saw you on Growing Up Twisted. I think you’re really funny. Are you still doing stand up? And I was like, “Yeah.” And he was like, “I wanna get dinner with you. I want you to roast your dad.” And I was just like, “Okay.” The whole process, leading up to that day, was pretty wonderful. Josh and the comedy writers, they’re super awesome, super supportive, and they were down to let me write my own jokes and they loved my jokes. There were even some jokes I wrote that other people on the stage used, which was really awesome. The day of…oh my God, I think I got there like six hours early because I was just fuckin shaking in my boots. It did not help that all the people on that stage, almost all of them, were like fuckin six foot tall or taller. Like Penn Jillette, Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine, awesome guy, I’ve been doing stuff with him too, and Zakk Wylde. Huge guys, not to mention, superstars. Lita Ford, I’ve known before. Mick Foley was actually supposed to be there that night, but he was feeling really sick, it was right around the time that the flu was going around. So everything leading up to it was great. Getting there the day of was very weird because I was probably the least recognizable face on the dais. So even people on the dais were like, “Who’s this guy?”, kind of ignoring me, with the exception of Craig Gass, who fuckin killed it that night and he has always been very nice to me. I did a couple shows with him.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been quite that nervous. And then when I got up to the mic, it was hard to hear and the audience was not nice. I’ll say this though, the live taping was a bit rough, when I was watching it in playback. So my first three jokes sucked, they bombed so bad. There was not a single laugh in the house. And as I finished my third joke, I kind of just had to take one moment to be like, “Okay, well, like you’re here and you still have three more pages of jokes, so get used to this.” And as I started just being like, “Well, I’m just gonna bomb and walk off stage. This is fine.”, people started laughing. It ended up being a really rewarding and amazing experience. It was a great time. I’ll say the roasting part, the making fun of the people part, I felt terrible about it. For somebody who is in no way earned a place on the stage of those people, I felt weird calling Lita Ford untalented or saying that the guy from the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” music video (Mark Metcalf), that anybody was a hasbeen or unfamous or not talented, but who am I to be saying any of this shit? I’m just the main attraction’s former sperm. (laughs) So it was a great experience, I’m really happy I did it. It was also pretty nerve racking and humbling at the same time.
AO: You mentioned, also, the fact that Eddie Trunk and Jim Florentine were there. Now this takes me to talking about a show that your dad was on, what’s your opinion of That Metal Show?
SS: Another series of strange connections, I used to be an assistant sound engineer in this place that edited all the episodes of That Metal Show. So I’ve seen many seasons of That Metal Show. I like the show, but I think the issue is that it’s very old school metal. To me, I’m more of a new school guy. I don’t know why. People are always like, “What? How could you do that? Your dad’s old school!” And I’m thinking, “I know.” But I listen to Slipknot and A Day to Remember and Korn and P.O.D. I listen to a lot of newer stuff and I feel like they tend to ignore a lot of the newer stuff. That’s my biggest gripe with the show is like they’re only just comparing these old albums that people have been talking about for thirty years, like, “Great, you really love that Deep Purple album.” “Black Sabbath was an awesome band.” Yup. Keep talking about how awesome they are. (laughs) I feel like I’m not the target audience for it, but it’s a decent show.
AO: They always respond to the fan comments about, “Why don’t you have newer guys on the show?”, and they’re like, “Because it’s VH1 Classic and the station wants us to have older bands.”, but lately, from the past few seasons, they’ve had guys like Corey Taylor, Sully Erna, Josh Todd, from newer bands because of that demand. And then it’s a good mix of new and old, especially when they have two guests on the show at a time.
SS: Oh yeah, I totally agree. When they had Corey Taylor on, that was one of my favorite episodes. The dude is a badass in a whole different sense of the word. You get Dio on and he’s all metal and dressing in black, and then you get Corey Taylor on, and he’s wearing like a beanie hat and a t-shirt and khaki shorts. But he’s talking about screaming at people and I know all of the stories make him sound like the most badass motherfucker around. I feel like when they have the new guys on, those are some of my favorite episodes. I don’t dislike the show, but I do feel like I’m not their target audience a lot of the time.
AO: What about the Revolver Golden Gods Awards?
SS: I didn’t see it. I really should have because Josh Bernstein, the guy who produced the Dee Snider roast also produced that, so I was gonna watch it as my way of supporting, but I didn’t watch them, so I can’t really weigh in too hard.
AO: But what’s your opinion of there being a heavy metal awards show and the guys that they choose to honor?
SS: I feel like awards shows in the entertainment industry are a little weird. They also feel like the industry is also jerking each other off. It’s like, “Way to go, fucking Ozzy!”, when it goes to Disturbed, when they’re all just jerking each other off because they all like metal. But that being said, it’s not like I feel they’re being held in this hoity-toity regard. I think it’s held almost like a big party, or at least that’s the feeling from me of the Revolver. From what I can tell, it feels more like a big party that they’re having. I like it, if you’re gonna be doing that, that should be it. It should be like, you know, it’s a metal awards show for metalheads, for metal fans, for the metal bands by the metalheads, by the metal fans, by the people who love metal. And it’s like let’s all just hang out and listen to our favorite tunes, talk about who we like best, and yadda yadda yadda. In that sense it’s good, but you know, entertainment awards always feel a little weird to me.
AO: On the opposite side of metal, something that has been spoken about, something that Eddie Trunk is very vocal about, somewhere your dad should be, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Are you aware of the controversy over there?
SS: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is like a whole different kind of stupid, political monster. I’ll say one thing is that when I was working as an assistant sound engineer, people who were working there, the head engineers, they were people with Grammys, they were people who have been in the industry thirty or forty years. They worked with all the big names. They worked with Cyndi Lauper, Linkin Park, and Black Eyed Peas, in the same month, they’re up there. And they, each and every one of them, hate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Each and every one of them. We were editing some of their clips that they put up and the whole time, all they could talk about is how much bullshit it is. And the truth is I don’t know too much, all I know about it is that it’s bullshit.
Should my dad be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? In a sense, yeah. I know their rules are like, you have to be in a band and blah blah blah, but there’s certain aspects I don’t think can be denied. I think the PMRC hearings need to be in the rock and roll history books. And then it comes down to, is this museum a history museum or a hall of fame, I don’t know. I’m not really sure what their goal is, but I think if their goal is to be teaching rock and roll history, then I think, yeah, he needs to be in there. I think the PMRC hearings need to be in there. I think the hair metal era needs to be in there in general. And I’m not too familiar with them, so I don’t feel like stirring shit all around, but from what I’ve heard, it’s pretty much bullshit.
AO: In relation to your dad’s music, what is it that you enjoy about the music of Twisted Sister?
SS: You know, it’s weird, because I’m kind of numb to it, I’ve been listening to it so long. But the truth is that Twisted Sister is the best live band around. If you ask Phil Carson, he’s the guy that signed my dad. He toured with The Beatles, he signed Led Zeppelin, ABBA, AC/DC, The Who, Ratt, Poison, he signed some of the biggest bands of all time. I think he signed three of the top ten best selling bands of all time. He has seen some of the best live shows in the history of the world and still says that my dad is the best frontman that’s ever existed. And the truth with that is where Twisted Sister thrives. They are a spectacle band. They are a chanting, pumping your fist band. And the best thing I like about Twisted Sister is their live shows. You can’t sit down during a Twisted Sister show. You are up on your feet, no matter who you are. Have you ever heard the story of the time my dad was yelling at people to stand up and they didn’t, so he walked off the stage?
AO: No, I never heard about that.
SS: Okay, so he was doing this huge show and there were these balcony seats and there was one group of people in the balcony who would not stand up. And he was screaming at them to stand up, he’s screaming at them, everybody else in the entire place is up on their feet. And he screams, “Everybody, I want you to scream at them “Fuck you assholes!””, and they’re all cheering, “Fuck you assholes! Fuck you assholes!” He said, “If you don’t stand up, I’m gonna walk off this fucking stage.” And they’re all screaming at him, “Fuck you! Fuck you!” and none of them are standing up. So they remain seated, so my dad storms off the stage and goes into the dressing room. His manager comes into the dressing room and he’s like, “Dee! What the hell are you doing?” And he’s like, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! Those guys, they’re fucking pissing me off. I was talking to them directly! I could see them flicking me off!” And his manager says, “They’re sitting in the handicapped section!”
AO: Oh my God.
SS: And it turns out he was screaming at a bunch of people in wheelchairs to stand up and have the entire place screaming at them. So he came out and apologized and explained what had happened. The truth though is that you can’t sit down and even if you’re handicapped, you might get yelled at to stand up. And that’s the best part about Twisted Sister, it’s gotta be their live performances.
AO: What are some of your other favorite live shows that you’ve been to?
SS: There’s this band Ludo I really like. They have some of the best stage presence I’ve seen in a long time. The Aquabats also have a super awesome stage performance, they’re like a team of superheroes. And Foxy Shazam is a fucking phenomenal live band. The only thing I can compare them to is Queen. They have this incredible energy. The lead singer swallows a pack of cigarettes while he’s on stage. They keyboard player puts his keyboard out into the crowd and crowd surfs. They’re fucking phenomenal. I saw AC/DC when I was like ten years old, they were amazing. They are awesome. And one of the cool things was they shot out these cannons of Angus Young dollars at the end of the show. But we were too far away to grab any of them. And my brother, who was seven at the time, was like, “Oh, I really want that money!” My dad put in a word and then one day, we got an entire box of like eight thousand Angus Young dollars or something like that in the mail. It was pretty awesome.
AO: Alright, so before we close, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
SS: Oh, no problem man.
AO: Do you have any website info where people can reach you and find out what you’re doing?
SS: Just follow me on Twitter. I don’t have a website or anything like that. I’m kind of just taking my time with that shit. Really, nobody actually goes on people’s websites anymore. Just follow me on Twitter, I’ll post about shows, I’ll post about sketches I’m doing.
AO: And what’s the story behind that Twitter name?
SS: We were doing Growing Up Twisted and they were asking us to live tweet during the shows and I was all, anti-social media, and I still am, despite the fact that I’m on Facebook and Twitter every fifteen minutes. But I was like, “I don’t tweet. I don’t get this.” So as like a miniature protest, I made it @shaneisnotabird because I don’t tweet, birds tweet. I don’t think anybody got that. I don’t think anybody got the irony that was in my head when I made it. (laughs)