Thursday, February 2, 2012

An interview with Pat Stansik

You may know Pat Stansik from his video series, Pre-Gaming with Pat, in which he interviews U of M students as they pre-game. I had the chance recently to exchange some emails with Pat recently. What follows is my interview with the Ann Arbor native/recent U of M grad. We discuss the local comedy scene, his upcoming projects, the fine line between hipsters and bros, blogging and of course, Pinterest. Enjoy.

BCB: What inspired you to get into comedy?

PS: I've always loved comedy, but I didn't realize you could pursue it as a career until I watched the show Curb Your Enthusiasm during my senior year of high school. Larry David is my idol but I didn't watch Seinfeld growing up, so Curb was my first exposure to his work and that kind of humor. Even though it's mostly improvised, Curb made me start thinking about pursuing comedy writing as a career. I'm fascinated by societal norms and the grey areas of everyday life and I figured that since I already do a lot of things that are frowned upon by others I might as well try to make people laugh at my own experiences and misfortunes (rather than getting upset that people at my gym always silently judge me when I fill up my empty water gallon when all they want is a sip even though I got there first and there are plenty of other water fountains they could walk to).

I was extremely shy growing up and devoted most of my free time to athletics, but as I got older I became more outgoing and started getting into comedy, mostly because I realized that I wasn't going to fulfill my childhood dream of playing in the NFL, NBA, and NHL all at the same time. I don't think anything will ever compare to the rush of making a great play on the athletic field, but making people laugh is the closest thing I've found so far.

BCB: How did your parents react when you "came out" as an aspiring comedian/have you "come out" to your parents?

PS: Both my Dad and my brother are very successful in the business world, so I don't think they were too happy. I chose to attend Bucknell after high school because I was recruited to play Division 1 lacrosse, but I had no idea what I wanted to study. I became a business major because I had to declare a major and I figured that if my brother and Dad were successful in the field, I could be too. I quickly discovered that I hated all of my business classes, but I missed the drop deadline, so I spent an entire semester trying not to fail, which I barely accomplished. During this time my friends from high school who had stayed in town to attend the University of Michigan started a blog called The Forest Blog and I started writing posts to get my mind off of how miserable I was. Even though I was writing posts that only a few people were reading, it made me realize that I really enjoyed writing and that I needed to change my career path.

As soon as I turned in my last business final I switched my major to creative writing, but I realized shortly after that I was going to graduate and not know how to film what I had written. I was almost a second semester junior and I wasn't getting much playing time on the lacrosse field, so I made the completely logical decision to leave Bucknell and transfer to the University of Michigan to study film. Now that I've graduated with a film degree my parents are slightly happier, but until I can completely support myself doing just this I think they'll continue to be skeptical about my decision.

BCB: Having grown up here, was it weird moving back to Ann Arbor as a student?

PS: I always came back to Ann Arbor for my holiday breaks when I was attending Bucknell, but it was weird finding out how much I didn't know about the town I've lived in my entire life. Growing up in Ann Arbor and being a student at Michigan are two completely different experiences, so it was a bit of a shock to discover how big of a role the University actually plays in the town. I also had no idea how big football pre-games were before I transferred here, which might explain why I decided to make a web series devoted to them.

I didn't really branch out during my first year at Michigan because I was living with my friends from high school, but they all graduated and I still had a year left so I tried to/was forced to meet more people during my senior year. I joined the lacrosse team (I didn't play my first year at Michigan) and met a lot of awesome people through my teammates (who were also awesome). I wish I had known what being a student at the University of Michigan was actually like when I was in high school, but I needed to get away at the time and I was lucky enough to experience two great (and very different) schools.

BCB: Some people have said you look like John Krasinski. I thought I saw him hanging out with Chris Pratt last spring at Old Town. Was that actually you?

PS: I wish. I didn't have a chance to see him when he was in Ann Arbor. I've only hung out with John Krasinski once, but luckily someone was there to take a picture:

BCB: I'm listening to your latest episode of your podcast, "Hey How Are Ya?" right now. Do you think there is an unrealized niche for male users Pinterest?

PS: I was introduced to Pinterest this summer by a female co-worker and I still don't really understand it. It seems that girls use it to plan their weddings, so maybe the male version would be for planning how they could stay single for as long as possible.

But just so we're clear, I've never used Pinterest. OK, let me clarify: I've been on the site, but I don't have an account. Sorry, I should be more specific: I've never logged into the account that one of my friends forced me to make so I could explore the world of bridesmaids dresses and unachievable female physiques. I should probably stop talking now.

BCB: It sounds like you were drinking during the last episode of your podcast...

That last episode was an exception because me and Ginger Ambition were going to Rick's immediately afterwards. I never use alcohol when I'm trying to write or be creative but a lot of my material comes from instances in which I've been drinking.

BCB: You have a lot of followers on Twitter. How did you get so many? How do you feel about Twitter?

PS: Mostly by blackmailing people into following me. Every now and then someone will follow me willingly, but that's a very rare occurrence.

I have very mixed feelings about Twitter. I love it because it allows me to gain insight into people's lives and stay up to date on news and sports, but it's also easy to get caught up in things that don't matter (OMG, I just gained two new followers while I was typing that sentence!). Twitter has been extremely helpful in gaining exposure for things I've written and videos I've made, so I'm never going to stop using it. Social media is a very useful tool but I waste way too much time using it when I should be writing or filming, so I have to constantly remind myself that if I keep creating content that people like more people will follow me.

BCB: What's up with Da'Quan?

PS: Da'Quan is a character that my friend Lucas Brody created during my first Pre-Gaming with Pat video of the football season. We did a few takes of Lucas talking about how he was trying to bring a girl back to his room and how he wasn't sure if the air conditioning was working, but it didn't sound right, so he came up with the idea to act like he was a NBA player at a post-game press conference. Every time I posted a new video people either loved him or hated him so I decided to interview him every week, mostly because I enjoyed seeing the negative comments, my favorite one being "I am going to find that kid and slit his throat with my car keys."

BCB: You've implied that you should move out to LA or somewhere with a better comedy scene. Do you have any definitive plans to move out of Ann Arbor?

PS: As of right now, no. My dream job right now is to write for a website like Funny or Die or CollegeHumor, but I need to keep writing and making videos because I'm not at that level yet. My plan is to stay in Ann Arbor and keep making videos until I can get hired at one of those places or until I feel the time is right to move to Los Angeles or New York. I have a lot of connections in Ann Arbor and I want to use them to make as many high quality videos as I can before I leave.

BCB: What's the comedy scene like here? What do you think would make it better?

PS: There are a lot of talented performers in the area, both on campus and around town. I'm currently living with Devin Rossinsky of 3P (the guys who made the "Pursuit of Jappiness" music video) and he's going to act in a lot of my upcoming videos. My friend Eli Yudin is a very funny stand up comedian and he'll be in some of my videos as well. Mike O'Keefe goes to Michigan State but he performs at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase a lot and I think he's hilarious. Mike and Trevor Smith are probably my favorite local comics that I've seen perform live.

I don't perform stand up enough to be considered an expert on the local comedy scene, but every open mic I've performed at in the area has been sparsely attended. The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase has an open mic every Wednesday night at 8 PM, and I think more people should check it out and support local comedy. It would also be nice if more people were there to laugh at all of my jokes about print cartridges.

BCB: Are there any projects of yours we should be on the lookout for in the near future?

PS: I'm currently in production for a mock movie trailer called "Bros vs. Hipsters" that should be finished within the next few weeks. After that I'll be filming a music video for a Denard Robinson love ballad I recently recorded. Then I'll be filming another music video that is going to be a surprise but all I'll say is that it's going to be released on my April 12th (my birthday). I've also been in the process of filming a video called "Rick's vs. Skeeps" based on a mock syllabus I wrote last year but it's taking forever so I'm hoping I can release it sometime in the spring. [ED: You can see several of Pat's latest projects in his most recent video "No Shortcuts."]
I've been trying to make a web series for a few years now that takes place in Ann Arbor but I just haven't found time to make it. I'm in talks right now with people about trying to film the pilot sometime this spring after I'm finished with the videos I mentioned earlier.

Other than that, I will be focusing on making short comedy sketches. Here is my most recent one:

BCB: What local blogs do you follow? Are there local/U of M blogs that we should be following?

PS: I'm obsessed with mgoblog, without that site I don't think I would have survived sitting through a single lecture in college. Ginger Ambition is a blog my friend Kellyann started and it's a great read if you ever find yourself wondering what it's like to be a senior girl at the University of Michigan. I read Filmic's blog pretty religiously (a student production group on campus) to see how busy they are because I've been wanting to collaborate for a while on videos but they're always swamped with projects. mgoeverything is a great Tumblr for University of Michigan content. I have a personal Tumblr that I use primarily for re-blogging Darren Criss animated GIF's, so you probably shouldn't read that. And of course, Damn Arbor, the site you are reading this very interview on right now.

BCB: What's your go to cheap beer?

PS: Natty Light. Like I said, I played lacrosse in college and that was my team's preferred drink, but I was also a film major, so I find myself constantly caught between the world of bros and hipsters. I like to keep my ratio around 72% bro, 28% hipster. So to keep it that way, for every three Natty Lights I drink, I'll have a PBR.

Pat Stansik reposts .gif animations of Darren Criss at If you follow him on Twitter, it will make him happy.

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