Q&A: John Caparulo
“Meet Cap”—no, it’s not just the part of the title of John Caparulo’s first comedy album and special; it’s an invitation for audiences every Thursday through Saturday at Harrah’s, where the 42-year-old Midwestern comic headlines The Comedy Lineup. The thoughtful, blue collar joker is most well-known for his quirky takes on current events as a panelist on the former E! Network talk show Chelsea Lately. Las Vegas Magazine’s Jason Harris caught up with Cap in his green room, where he discussed his Vegas history and the state of comedy today.
How many years have you been performing in Las Vegas?
The first place I did was the Riviera. I was an opener the first time, then I was a middle, then I was a headliner. We did 14 shows a week. It was unbelievable. I did the Riv for a few years probably till about 2005-’06. In 2009, South Point started calling me. I started there doing Friday and Saturday and within a couple of bookings they added a Sunday. I started doing that place too much. But still it was a great time. I loved the audiences but it was a more local audience. I recorded a special there and that's kind of how I got connected with this job.
I think the way you present stuff, even when using strong language, is done in the least offensive way possible.
I don't try to do that. It's just how I am. I don't feel right doing certain things, but I laugh at them. I used to love Andrew Dice Clay. That stuff is great, but I couldn't pull that off. You learn as you go along in comedy what you can and can't do.
Do people still recognize you from Chelsea Lately?
That was the real lift in my career. I started seeing more people come out to my shows on the road. My numbers got lifted up in 2009. We started Chelsea in 2007. I was on the second week and I was one like once a month. It seemed for the first year and a half, that show was underground. We'd do the show and have a lot of fun. I feel like I did well on the show but wondered, “Is anybody really watching this?” We didn't really know. And then all of a sudden it became a national phenomenon. It was huge. I just thought it was this show on basic cable and maybe you see it and maybe you don't. But once ’09 hit, the numbers were crazy and girls started coming to my shows. Which was big. That's how I got her (points to his wife). I owe a lot to Chelsea Handler. I really do. I did notice a lot more women and a lot more gay dudes coming to my shows. That's alright. That's cool. Even now, that’s still my, “You know him from” credit. I think that's my biggest tv thing.
What do you think of the state of comedy right now? The importance of social media not just for comics but for audience members? Some will jump in and demand that all comedy be appropriate and politically correct. It's a different time from when you started.
I started in 1997. It wasn't that long ago. It was right before social media started taking over our lives. Everybody is getting so oversensitive to everything and it’s bad. It’s bad for everything and especially for comedy. It really is the last bastion of free speech. It’s supposed to be the one place—if you leave an elephant in the room then you’re not really doing comedy. You're not really being honest. You're not really calling it for what it is. It's there. Everybody can see it and nobody wants to talk about it. I hate that. Things are just gonna get worse by not talking about these things. A few weeks ago, I was doing a bit about Trump and somebody just starting yelling at me. I get it that you don't want to talk about it but it's like when are you going to talk about it? It's bad for our entire society and our culture to not be able to open up and talk about these things. It’s gonna get to the point where we can’t do real comedy. And then, how funny is it?
Any good bad-gig stories?
I was at the Comedy Store and there was one guy. Literally, it’s not a crowd. That’s a dude. And I was so mad that that guy stayed. If he would have left we all could have gone home. But since he stayed I was like, “F*ck. I gotta do a set for this dude. This sucks. I feel like a f*cking stripper.” This was my younger days in comedy so I had to do it. I think one of my favorite ones was also in The Belly Room in The Comedy Store. I worked that back door for two years. People would come in and I'd check their ids and tell them to go the show. It was a Friday night. The woman who was running the show upstairs comes down. I'm sitting on my stool, doing the doorman thing. She’s like, “I have this really big, full room upstairs for this improv team.” They had this really young, energetic crowd ready to laugh. And she said, “I have nobody to go after this improv group. Do you want to go up?” I’m like, “Yeah. I do.” I changed my shirt. I did probably 15 minutes and I had one of the best sets of my life to that point. I came downstairs from that floating. Like, “Man, it’s Friday. I will be a star by Monday.” And I get downstairs and the night mangers comes up to me and he asks, “Cap, are you done now with your set? Because the ladies room toilet backed up and it flooded into the hallway.” He hands me a mop and I’m having to mop up the hallways as girls are walking by me going, “You were really funny. It’s not mine that you’re stepping on. You should walk around that.” There's a clip in my highlight reel where a woman throws a glass at me because I was talking about politics. I never touched on this sh*t before. And I still don't touch on it much.
And the way you do it isn't confrontational.
Because I make fun of both parties. And if I do talk about politics, out of a 70-minute set that I do, maybe 5 minutes of it will be about politics. That’s it. That's all I got.
It's funny because you talking about Kent State and the shootings and people just glaze over that but the second you mention Trump, it gets a little crazy.
I’ll say honestly, it’s usually Trump supporters or people who are just anti-politics. That woman who threw the glass at me was obviously pro Trump or related to Trump. She was mad as sh*t. I was just happy I got that recorded.
She was just trying to make America great again by smashing your face with a glass.
I was just about to say that, too. At that point in the set, she was like, “Go f*ck yourself.” And I said, “I will go f*ck myself.” And I was about to say, “And you keep making America great again.” And then she threw the glass at me and it changed the entire dynamic. I was proud of that moment. I not only finished my set, I kept it going. Me and the crowd, we started laughing again. That was a really, really ugly, f*cked-up display by that woman. Nobody likes to see that. The whole place sort of turned into, everybody started yelling at her. And it got nasty. Somehow, I was able to go, “Who wants cake?” and make people laugh. I was so proud that that's where I’d evolved to as a comic that I could take that situation and come out looking pretty good. It was great.
Are there things in Las Vegas you are looking to do that you have never done before?
My daughter loves the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay. She's gone to it four times. She has a sting ray friend named Sammy. I keep missing out on that. I really have go to that because I want to check out who she is hanging out with. The first time I came here was 1997 on spring break. We did that thing at The Stratosphere that shoots you way up in the air. Now I get sick just thinking about the fact that I did that.