Steven Lolli brings comedic ire back to Tampa

Funny man Steven Lolli is coming back to Tampa to perform on his home coast, and if you don’t know who he is, watch your back.

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Steven Lolli
w/Tyler Horvath and Tarik Lewis
Fri., Sept. 18. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $21 in advance, $17 for Carrollwood Cultural Center members; day of show, $23 general admission. 4537 Lowell Road, Tampa., 813-269-1310.

He has made his career by being bold and in-your-face. Being a Jewish comic performing in predominantly black L.A. clubs became a claim to fame for Steven Lolli when he was just starting out. 

For Lolli, no subject is off-limits and his ability to eviscerate politicians, celebrities and other comedians alike is a refreshing change from the redundant jokes of other comics. That quality is what caught the attention of comedian Katt Williams, who hired Lolli as a writer in 2007, and nicknamed him the "urban jew." 

Lolli will be performing at the Carrollwood Cultural Center on Friday, Sept. 18, and bringing his brand of 25 percent quick-witted philosophy, 25 percent cultural awareness and 75 percent pent-up rage with him (that’s not a typo — I checked my notes). Local comedians Tyler Horvath and Tarik Lewis will be openers and emcee for Lolli, each of them showcasing their own biting wit and suffer-no-fools style.

CL had an opportunity to catch up and see what the Tampa-turned-L.A. native has been up to and find out what people can expect when they see his show.

CL: Do you have any particular memories of growing up in Tampa that come to mind?

Lolli: I had a really good friend that opened my eyes to a lot of new things in the way of music and film. He was kind of my creative confidant. Because of him I went from listening to Boys II Men and Chicago to listening to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and learned to appreciate Stanley Kubrick movies more. We smoked a lot of pot, so we needed stuff that was more sophisticated. Outside of my friend, there was the taking out my teenage anger on inanimate objects like mailboxes or stealing Halloween decorations for no particular reason. 

When did you know you wanted to be a comedian?

I wasn't much of a creative guy in high school [Gaither High School in Tampa]. I was more of a sports guy. It was after I graduated that I started getting more involved in the arts and acted in a few plays. There was a guy that came to one of those plays and asked if I had ever tried to do stand-up. I was 18 at the time; I tried it at 19. 

I know you’ve mentioned a few times that you’re an angry guy; what’s that about?

I sometimes wonder that myself. I think it’s because I didn’t get laid during my adolescence enough. It could go back even farther than that, but that’s the memory I can trace. You know, you can be angry as a comedian, but you have to combine it with other things. You have to be able to play some other notes.

So then, what’s your formula?

Well, I’m cute. Look, I’m a white, straight man — no one wants to hear my opinion. I have to be really good at this. My target audience to want is to not be speaking at a Klan rally at a Republican National Convention.

You’ve written and directed your short film Yoga Ho. Any plans to write or produce anything else?

Well, I’ve pitched a show to Chris Rock, and I wrote a movie called Urban Jew, which was based on my being the only white guy on the black comedy scene. I’ve written some stuff. I’d love to get an independent feature film made. I’d love to make films- I love Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Eddie Murphy in the 1980s, Richard Pryor, Sacha Baron Cohen and Louie CK, obviously. He’s kind of my folk hero right now.

You’ve said that you have it in you to automatically pick fights with people that could help your career … ?

It’s amazing how many bridges are still available to me because there are so many that are no longer in existence. I went on at the Hollywood Improv for the Just for Laughs Showcase in 2003. I went on and I killed it. I was killing it, but then I just started making fun of Adam Sandler. That crowd got so quiet, and I’m sure his people were there. Of course, now everyone wants to cannibalize Adam Sandler.

Would you work with him, given the opportunity?

I’d take his fucking money if he’s going to produce my shit, yeah. I’m a whore; I’ll take it. But I’m not going to placate in order to get there. I can’t be funny unless I’m saying what I mean.

Do you have a particular rivalry with anyone in comedy?

I don’t want to throw just one person under the bus when I can throw everybody under the bus. There are these fake liberals who do credit card commercials. They are “hippie-crites.” I want to take them apart because they are just fake. Tina Fey is one, so is Samuel L. Jackson. There are a lot of high-profile people that pretend to be on the left, but they also love helping corporations sell credit cards.

So there’s no one person in particular?

 I feel like I need one now. I do have a beef with people pretending to be comedians. Like Aziz Ansari. That’s a guy who is pretending to do standup comedy, but he’s had a lot of resources. He’s selling out Madison Square Garden? How bad are the fucking Knicks that they are booking that guy? Comedy is a street art; you have to be able to fight your way out of some shit. But that’s so sad, that can’t be my rivalry. I need to be rivals with someone with balls. Maybe I could say I’m beefing with Bill Burr. I’m beefing with comics that don’t even know me.

That’s exactly what you should do for publicity. Put that on your Twitter account today.

You need to quote me on this: “I’m beefing with all the comics that have never heard of me. Every comic that’s never heard of me, I’m out to get. Watch your back.”

You’re going to have to go up to Louie CK, and slap him as hard as you can.

I could always say that he masturbated in front of me, like that one girl in 2007. That’s my beef: He masturbated in front of me sometime between 2008 and 2009, told me he was going to take me on the road with him, never did, and no one stuck up for me after that happened. I’m considering getting my own podcast just to talk about it.

What do you enjoy about coming back home to Tampa to perform?

Before finding the Carrollwood Cultural Center, I didn’t like performing at comedy clubs. It’s so much more rewarding to perform there than performing at places where people remember only that they went to Side Splitters but not the name of the performer. They remember the name of the brand but not the comic.

Why should people come out to see your show?

Why should they? Because there is nothing else better to do, probably. Football season hasn’t even started yet; the only culture is the bacteria in the water. Come see me. You’ll laugh more than the three times you did at that Will Ferrell movie that you think is a classic.

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