Mike Vecchione is a New York City-based stand-up comedian who has been performing for over 20 years. He has made multiple appearances on The Tonight Show, as well as on Netflix, Comedy Central and Hulu. Vecchione’s comedy special “The Attractives,” released in March this year, explores subjects ranging from relationships to running with literal bulls.
On Friday, Vecchione performed at the Bing Concert Hall Studio as part of the Stanford Live 2023–24 Season. Ahead of his show, Vecchione spoke with The Daily to share his reflections on the early days of his comedy career, how social media has reshaped the role of a stand-up comic and how he finds inspiration for his sets.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): Tell me about what drew you to stand-up comedy and your early days performing.
Mike Vecchione (MV): I started in Philadelphia, pre-social media, in 2000. Around the end of 2003, I moved to New York to try to really give it a shot. There, I was working the last days of the Boston Comedy Club, which is closed now. The Boston Comedy Club was a legendary comedy club in the West Village that turned into the Comedy Village.
I really got my foothold there, trying to learn who’s who, meet people and hang out. And then I started working the Comedy Cellar in around 2007, then The Comic Strip, Stand Up New York, Broadway Comedy Club, New York Comedy. I started working everywhere after that. As I worked more at the clubs, I would get more television opportunities. So, you know, it all kind of slowly evolved that way.
TSD: What was the comedy scene of New York like in the early 2000s?
MV: At that time, it was a lot of hanging out — I would do an open mic to work on material and then go hang out at the clubs to see if I could get on, because they’ll put on the people that they know. It was a lot of relationships, it was a lot of getting on stage as much as you can and trying to make money during the day and trying just to survive.
TSD: How do you think comedy has changed between now and when you first started?
MV: When I started, the goal was to get on television. And you had to rely on gatekeepers, basically, people in the industry who would tell you “yes” or, more often, “no.” Now it’s good in the sense that social media allows you to create content and communicate directly with the fans.
TSD: How has social media changed your stand-up, if at all?
MV: It used to be to get stuff ready for your hour. You didn’t want anyone to see the jokes from your hour because you wanted them to see it when they saw your hour. I think that’s all out the window now because of TikTok, because of Instagram. So it’s just like, your stand-up act is more of a long-term thing that you’re working on. You’re always, always working on it long-term. But you’re also working on content for YouTube, working on content for TikTok, working on content for Instagram Reels and all this stuff because it makes a difference.
It’s good because it’s like you’re in charge of your own destiny. You can create whatever you want. You don’t need anybody to greenlight you. You don’t need anybody to give you funding.
TSD: I’m curious about the actual construction of your sets — how you go about observing the world and finding what you’ll craft into jokes.
MV: It changes up. Sometimes I feel like if you do the same thing all the time, it gets stale.
I was journaling for a while. I used to do it with pen and paper, but now I just do it on my phone. I’ll write the date, I’ll write where I am and then I’ll just go for half an hour.
I’m working on a jury duty set now because I got called to do jury duty. It’s about the struggle of trying to get out of that and not be in a three-week trial because I have road dates. And so I have to hone that experience. If you just journal, then you’re just scratching the surface of every topic. What you really want to do is you want to have a plethora of topics, and then work on them.
So it’s a combination of things, in a short concise answer. It’s free writing. It’s taking topics and then joke writing, throwing jokes at them or honing a story. And then it’s trying it on stage or even trying it into the video or audio recorder and listening to it back to get the beats of the story down.
TSD: When you’re out in the world free-writing and observing, what do you feel like you’re usually looking for?
MV: There’s a thousand funny or potentially funny things that could happen to you every day, from the time that you get up to the time you close your eyes at night.
If you look at it through this lens, everything is either a joke or potentially a joke. There’s so many situations where it’s like, you had an interaction and you start thinking the interaction went fine and it seemed like a normal interaction, nothing out of the ordinary. But this could have gone south. How could this have really gone south?
TSD: Well, for example, today — if you had to, what would you name as a couple things you noticed?
MV: I went to go get coffee. I was in some town, I don’t know what town, but I think it was Missouri. I go to get coffee at a coffee shop. It’s an artsy coffee shop and I order it and it’s $4 and the guy goes, “$4,” and I go, “Okay,” so I stick my credit card in and he turns the screen around.
This is happening all the time. He turns the screen around and says, “What would you like your tip to be?” So I hit “$2” and then turn it back. Then he hands me my receipt and the cup. He goes, “It’s over there.”
So it’s like, what did I tip him for? Not only am I not tipping for waiter service, I’m not tipping for counter service. It’s just, I’m tipping him for what? He gave me the cup to go do it myself and then took my tip. And not only did he not do anything, he told me like, “You go do it.” So I feel like we’re coworkers. And the funny part of it is: how far does this go? The next time I walk in, he’s going to throw coffee grounds at me? He’s going to throw beans at me and be like, “Go figure it out”?