Zach Zucker Is Good At Being Bad....So Everything Is Good, A Conversation

Alex Mecklosky
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March 26, 2024 12:30 PM

Vulture’s Top Comics You Should and Will Know and the creator of the independent production company, Stamptown, Zach Zucker, is currently starring in Jack Tucker: Comedy Standup Hour as his alter ego Jack Tucker at the Soho Playhouse Off Broadway. Zach recently had the chance to sit down with us and discuss all things Jack, clowning, TikTok, and more.

Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Theatrely: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Aside from Jack, how did you get into the comedy scene?

Zach Zucker: I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, to be a star, obviously. I had virtually zero acting training or experience. I came from a sports background, but when I was 17 growing up in Chicago, I saw Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson and a bunch of other people perform at Second City, and it just changed my life. So I threw away my sports career and moved out to LA, got into improv and sketch at UCB. I was interning there (UCB) when I was 19 as a really unfunny, enthusiastic teenager who couldn't drink but wanted to hang out with all these cool comedy people. Eventually, I ended up working for Sacha Baron Cohen's production company and his clown teacher, Phillipe Gaultier, was coming to LA, and I decided to take this workshop because I was hoping it would give me something to talk about when I was interviewing for a job. The class blew my mind and changed my life. I ended up working for Sasha for six months but about halfway through I told Sasha "I can't stop thinking about going to clown school. What should I do?" and he (Sasha) said "Go for it". So I went to a clown school in France, in this small village. Ever since then I've been touring the international arts and comedy scene in North America, Europe, Australia, Britain, Asia and even Africa this last year.

It's interesting you use the word clown for your style of comedy...what do you think is the difference between just regular old comedy versus clown and that kind of humor?

That's the age old question. To me, it's like more of an approach or a style. Whereas stand up, it's a set up and then a punchline, everybody laughs. With Clown, you do something and if nobody laughs at that moment, it is when you do something that just acknowledges the room in a way that says "Hey, I'm aware that this was bad". It's more about embracing your failure. If you're good at being bad then everything is good.

Now, could you now tell us a little bit about Jack and where he came from? I want to know the full lore.

Jack Tucker comes from New York. Somewhere upstate, we're not really sure where he's from or if he's actually been to New York, but he is from there. The character came from a bit of a response from me and my comedy partner Viggo Venn (who won Britain's Got Talent this past year) when places wouldn't book us for our show "Zach and Viggo". Places kept saying what we did wasn't comedy so we wanted to combat that. We thought since these places are booking all really shitty comedians let's be a bad stand up then. We also love cringe humor like Neil Hamburger or Tim Heidecker who have a persona of doing "bad comedy" so they were big inspirations. My good buddy Tom Walker who is a brilliant Australian clown says "Jack is a perfect way to frame all of your bad habits to make me look you look like a genius".

Where did the idea of bringing this character Off Broadway come from?

I just love to perform. When I met this amazing producer, Lucas McMahon, who is our producer today, we set up a meeting maybe two years ago and we hit it off really well. We just talked about wanting to do a West End run, or an Off-Broadway, or a Broadway run we never really knew how, but we just stayed in the works for this. It's been something we've thought about and talked about for a while. It's a dream come true, I'm from New York originally and to be able to perform in front of my family and friends...and strangers in the best city in the world, I think I'm living my dream in real time, you know?

Jack has played all around the world. What is the difference between playing him in somewhere like New York or somewhere in Europe? Is the humor there a little bit different?

Oh, yeah. There's there's multiple versions of the show. So much of the humor was based on, like him being an outsider so it's been a fun challenge to change it. Now in America, New York's probably my favorite place to do it because he's from here, but he also knows nothing about the city. Sometimes people think he is real, which blows my mind. My favorite place to perform it is the UK first and foremost because they just have a longer culture of being an audience. Tucker being an outsider in the UK is my favorite because they love to take the piss out of themselves and they also love to make fun of Americans. So you have this dumb American who they think is really stupid is making fun of them, and they're like “yeah but this guy's dumb so it's okay”.

Did any other shows inspire you while bringing this to the Off Broadway Stage?

Alex Edelman's a good friend of ours, he's been a big brother to me. And watching him nailed this with his great show just for us like that, that to me was like "okay, I could do this". And like Liz Kingsman, her one woman show...I guess it's more like I guess it's more the influence of people who inspired me to just do this type of performing. But Alex and Liz coming out here and having success, I think maybe made it more real.

What do you think is the best way to experience the Comedy Hour for audiences? Do you think it's better for them to go in blind, or maybe look at some of the TikToks, or take an edible and just enjoy themselves?

To me that last way is the way to do it. The best way to prepare is to turn your brain off. If you come in with your arms crossed, you're not going to have a fun time, but if you're there ready to fucking laugh and kind of cleanse yourself and have this cathartic release of whatever stress and troubles are in your life for 75 to 90 minutes (depending on how much fun we're having) then come.

You do see a subsection of people who really enjoy things like I Think You Should Leave or The Eric Andre Show, do you think that's the target audience?

Yes. Yeah, absolutely. Those are the kind of people we are trying to rope in. I am definitely in the .0001% of people who don't get shocked by things anymore. I guess if you've never seen any show like this it might be like "whoa, what am I watching?" But for me, I'm like: "guys, get on board, I deep throated a microphone, spat out an apple, and had five gunshot sound effects. Get over it!"

And finally, do you think Jack might ever be destined for Broadway? Is that something that you see...or he sees in his future?

Yeah. Of course. I mean, it'd be a dream dude. To go from Jacking off Broadway to Jacking on Broadway. Are you kidding? I mean, that would be the dream. And I mean, Jack  himself has obviously never been to a Broadway show. I'd like to follow the Alex Edelman and Liz Kingsman models of doing more extensions, maybe doing a West End run and hopefully getting the special out of this is something we've been dreaming about for a while. And again, to be able to perform an original show on Broadway is something that I would not take lightly... like that.... it's a full dream come true, you know? 

The absolutely hilarious Jack Tucker: Comedy Standup Hour is currently playing at the Soho playhouse through April 13th. For more information, click here.

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Alex Mecklosky

As a native New Yorker, Alex has always loved everything involving theatre. With a degree in Theatre and New Media from Marymount Manhattan College, Alex realized that, since he was not talented enough to be on Broadway, the next best thing would be to write about it!