The joke's on him
ASU English grad Michael Longfellow looks toward comic career
Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.
If the Marx brothers were alive today — and if they met Arizona State University’s Michael Longfellow — they might consider adding another “brother” to the act.
Longfellow, who is graduating this spring with a bachelor of arts in English literature, is banking on a career in stand-up comedy. The Scottsdale native trades in the vaudevillian quip, much like Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo and Zeppo, but with a Millennial twist.
It’s not just a coincidence that Longfellow shares his surname with a famous American poet — according to his grandmother they are related — and it’s clear that this Longfellow’s passions lie in perfecting the use of language too. Post-graduation he’ll head to the Mecca of modern comedy, New York City, to practice and hone his craft.
He says he was once on Fox’s "Laughs" television show, which promotes young, upcoming comedians, “for 48 seconds.” Locally, he can be found, “at the Tempe Improv opening for the guy who’s opening for your favorite comedian.”
Yes, Longfellow tosses out witty, often self-deprecating responses to questions. In the course of this interview he dealt his deadpan answers like poker cards — quickly and well-aimed.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I did comedy for the first time as a freshman and immediately realized it was the only thing I really wanted to do. I knew if I was going to have to go to college, a degree that dealt with words and language would best suit my interests. Also, math was difficult, and when science became more than baking soda volcanoes or putting small things in water to watch them get bigger, I really had nowhere else to turn.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A. Inside the classroom I learned American Sign Language, but I forgot it. Outside of the classroom, and specifically outside of the MU, I learned, weekly, that I was going to hell; I’m just happy a crazy man was nice enough to let me know.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I’d like to think ASU chose me, because nowhere else did.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
• “These will be the best years of your life” is a weird thing that weird old people say that should totally be ignored. You have 50 years left after these four, and if you’re looking forward to them it’s much easier to convince yourself to rage a little less and work a little harder at making them something worthwhile.
• A lot of people aren’t going to like everything about you, but some people are! Just find those people and stick with them.
• Ride a bike, not a longboard.
• Ride a longboard, not a penny board.
• The “liquor before beer” trick doesn’t work if you just drink too much.
• If you’re going to touch a stray Tempe cat, which you should, start behind the ears. If the cat’s head goes up, you’ve got a cool cat; keep scratching. If the cat’s head goes down, get away from that cat; it’s about to scratch you.
• A nap in the Secret Garden is the quickest way to bug bites.
• Find your on-campus bathroom and never betray it.
• No one cares what they look like from the hours of 6 a.m.-noon so don’t worry about getting up early enough for a shower.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The hot dog place right next to the Secret Garden is great for all three of these. It has nice hot dogs and a colorful bike rack to look at.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I’m busting a Kimmy Schmidt and moving to New York City to be a big-time New York City comedian. Comedy shows are primarily at night, so hopefully I can fill my days up with a writing position somewhere nice. If that doesn’t work, you can catch me serving McMuffins at your local Brooklyn McDonald’s.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: The lack of $40 million in my bank account is a huge problem I would definitely solve, but maybe I would also buy out Nick at Nite and bring "Fresh Prince" and "Family Matters" back to their respective time slots, which is whenever I’m going to bed.
The Department of English is an academic unit of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.