Rory Scovel Discusses Being Amy Schumer's Co-Star, Jazz Comedy and How Phish Inspires Him

BY Julianna RomanykPublished Sep 25, 2017

Rory Scovel's comedy is a force that can't be contained. His off-the-cuff absurd delivery is the hallmark of his style, but otherwise, Scovel is happy to put every other element of his act in flux. Performing entire sets in a strong fake accent, with a piano accompanying him, or even with another standup comedian overlapping what he's saying, Scovel is innovative and unique in everything he creates.
Though Scovel has one of the most alternative sensibilities in recent memory, he's on the brink of serious mainstream success. His special Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For the First Time just came out on Netflix, and now Scovel is busier than ever. Currently playing his first major movie role in Amy Schumer's I Feel Pretty, returning as Principal Quinn in the third season of TruTV's Those Who Can't, and doing standup across North America, Scovel found time in his tight schedule to speak with Exclaim! while he was in Boston filming Schumer's upcoming comedy.
"It's been pretty surreal — I definitely haven't done anything like this before," Scovel humbly admits when asked about playing a romantic interest in a huge Hollywood project. "It's a very cool experience."
Scovel acknowledges that making it onto the big screen hasn't just inspired him as an actor, but reinvigorated his dream of directing.
"I didn't really expect to be on any kind of a path that would lead to directing. I always pictured you had to dive into the thing you were trying to do, or you wouldn't do it. But getting into standup and acting, I see now that there is an opportunity," the 37-year-old comedian cheerfully explains. "It was definitely it was a goal as a kid, and it's even more of a goal now."
Despite his excitement about exploring different fields, standup is clearly the art that fascinates Scovel the most.
"The thing I try to keep in mind all the time is to trust. Don't think. You'll have a better result if you're allowing your instincts to kick in," Scovel says, bringing his background in improv into his standup. "I should just flow, be in the moment, let each joke go to the next and not try to steer too much. If I try to steer the conversation, it's not really two-sided. People might laugh, but also it probably won't feel so personal."
Considering that Scovel enjoys a little bit of everything and his last special had White Stripes frontman Jack White on board as one of its executive producers, it's no surprise that Scovel draws inspiration for his comedy from some of his favourite rock musicians.
"Tool are my favourite band, and I've heard them specifically say that if they're always creating the same thing over and over again, their art isn't changing them. Now that sounds a lot deeper than how I'm affected by my own stuff, but the basics of that outlook make me think about my own situation. My next thing won't look anything like my last special. It's a bit of wanting to give the audience something new and give myself something new, but I think that stems from knowing the musicians I really like always try to do something different.
"Also I'm super into Phish." Scovel remarks. "I think it's awesome that their set lists are never the same, and I also like that they'll go into a song they've already written and let it become a new thing."
The comic from South Carolina also takes inspiration from another genre of music: jazz.
"I try to find correlations between the rhythm of performing comedy and the rhythm of a jazz set. Like when I do a joke in a different way, using a different voice or an accent for no real reason, I see that in sort of same way as someone doing a solo," Scovel says. "A standup show flows kind of musically. When an audience sees a really good standup show, they can't really remember the jokes and they don't feel like they were there for an hour and a half. They just get lost in the moment, and jazz does that for me."
Don't miss Rory Scovel in Toronto on September 29 and 30 at JFL42. Tickets are available here.

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