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One-on-One with Greg Warren

Andrew Hipps

6/19/2009
Andrew Hipps, InterMat Senior Editor
andrew@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @InterMat

Greg Warren is wrestling's funniest man. The St. Louis, Missouri native wrestled collegiately at the University of Missouri, where he was an All-American in 1991 at 158 pounds for the Tigers. He eventually became a full-time comedian in 2001.

Greg Warren
Warren recently had his own half-hour special on Comedy Central, which debuted in March. He has had numerous TV and festival appearances. Warren can be seen on networks such as BET (as a finalist on Coming to the Stage) and Country Music Television's Comedy Stage. He has also developed a following from his work on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom radio show, which led him to tour theaters across the country with the Bob and Tom Comedy All-Star Tour. He is also a regular guest on CBS' The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and was a semi-finalist on NBC's Last Comic Standing.

InterMat recently caught up with Warren and talked to him about his CD that is scheduled to be released next week, where he got his start as a comedian, and some of his most memorable experiences. Warren also reflects on his college wrestling career at Missouri, including his battles with the likes of Tim Krieger and Pat Smith.

You have a CD coming out on iTunes on Tuesday. What will be on the CD?

Warren: It is my first CD under a major record label so I incorporated a couple of things. There will be 30 minutes of highlights from my first two self-published CDs. Also, it will include an additional 20 minutes of material not on any CDs. There is a big segment on wrestling, a lot of stuff on my family, a brand new segment on my year at West Point. The title is One Star Wonder. 'One Star' is a term that I kind of hit on accidentally. I was talking about those Priceline ads where they say, "You can stay at a four-star hotel for the same price as a one-star hotel." After staying at hotels 300 nights a year for 10 years, I can tell you that you will then have a lot of one-star people staying at four-star hotels. The term sort of caught on and turned into a big piece of my act. One Star is a kinder, gentler way of saying "redneck" or "white trash."

Editors Note: If you are interested in purchasing Greg's new CD on iTunes, click, click HERE.

How did you get your start as a comedian?

Warren: I had several false starts actually. I think really the first time I actually went on stage was … my friend Craig Martin … He was actually the captain of the wrestling team at Mizzou. He was an All-American there. He was a senior and I was a freshman. I was sort of loud or whatever in the practice room. He was working at this bar and they had some sort of comedy contest. So I entered this comedy contest and won. That was probably the first time. I did it very sparingly in college whenever anyone would give me the opportunity, which was not very often. I was wrestling too, so it was kind of hard to focus on that. I got out of school and took a job with Procter and Gamble in Houston. I would start and stop down there a bunch of times. Like I would do it for a while … and then I would focus on my career more. I couldn't decide what I wanted to be. Right around 1996 in Houston, I started doing it pretty regularly. Then I was transferred to Ohio. I was like getting promoted with the company. I was still thinking about whether I wanted to do that or be a comedian. I started doing it a lot in Ohio. I started to get a little better … to be honest with you. I had this one weekend where I was working at a club in Dayton, Ohio … it was like with Kevin Pollak, who was kind of big at the time. It was sold out. I did really well. I got to work that next Monday and was like, 'There's no way I can do this office thing anymore.' So I wound up quitting my job and doing it full-time. That was like 2001.

You have performed all over the country. You have had television and festival appearances. What do you enjoy most about being a comedian?

Warren: That's a tricky question. It goes in full circle. There's a huge amount of freedom even versus like filmmakers, actors, or writers. I can create whatever I want and put it on the stage that night and get immediate feedback. So that's kind of a really cool thing about being a comedian, which helps with my no sense of patience.

As you reflect on your career as a comedian, what has been your most memorable experience?

Warren: There are several. But some that come to mind … the Comedy Central special was pretty cool. That was really, really fun. I taped it last August. My family and a lot of friends came up. That was really, really cool. I've done a lot of TV … and that was probably the first time where I was doing TV and I was relaxed, which is good. I like working with other people, which you don't get to do as a standup much. I've had a bunch of comedian friends of mine come to St. Louis and we did like these sketches and put them on the Internet. That was really a memorable time … just working together for like a week with a bunch of comics. We did one that actually kind of caught on a little bit. It was called Cauliflower Ear. One of my real good friends, Henry Phillips, and I, did that. It was really cool … because that was something that had appeal to people that were in wrestling and out of wrestling, so that was good.

You have a cauliflower ear yourself, which is something people probably are not accustomed to seeing the comedy world. Do you ever see people looking at it? Or asking you questions about it?

Warren: Yeah, the funny thing about that is people are very comfortable with talking about that deformity. People will come up to you in the mall and be like, "Hey man, did you wrestle?" And then they'll point at your ear. And I'll be like, "Yeah, yeah, I did." I didn't know that's what people do these days … walk up to a complete stranger, point at his deformity, and guess the origin. You just have to wonder who else these people are walking up to and what other ailments they're guessing about.

Who are some comedians that have inspired you throughout your career?

Greg Warren
Warren: I'm a big fan of Bob Newhart. Actually, it's funny that you ask … I was never like a big standup comedy fan as a kid. I don't know if my parents wouldn't let me watch it or what or whatever. I liked a lot of movies. The summer between my sophomore and junior year, I took a train to Junior Nationals with my buddy Stacy Weiland. Stacy was a wrestler. He wrestled in junior college and at the University of Oklahoma. He was also a coach at Lindenwood for a while. But Stacy had this cassette tape of Eddie Murphy. I listened to that thing. It was like when they first came out with Walkmans. I listened to Delirious. I listened to that thing like 50 times. I was cutting weight. I couldn't eat, so I just listened to Delirious all the way from St. Louis to Iowa on a train. So like the next three weeks, especially at the wrestling tournament, I would just go around repeating what Eddie Murphy said, and annoying the shit out of all my friends. So I would say Eddie Murphy was the first comic that influenced me.

Some of the more recent guys that come to mind … Mitch Hedberg. Our styles are exactly opposite, but I'm a big fan of him. I'm a big fan of Dave Attell. He's another one that I'm not really that much like. There's a guy named Mike MacRae that's a friend of mine that I'm a big fan of. Henry Phillips, the guy that I did that Cauliflower ear thing with. I really like his stuff. A lot of my contemporaries I'm a fan of. But it's funny … if I see something funny, it doesn't matter who they are ... like they don't have to be famous …and a lot of times actually they're not famous. There's this kid in St. Louis named Jeff Wesselschmidt. He has only been doing it for a few years, but he makes me laugh all the time. But stylistically, I would say Bob Newhart has influenced me.

You wrestled collegiately at the University of Missouri, where you were an All-American for the Tigers in 1991. What was that experience like for you competing collegiately at the University of Missouri?

Wes Roper
Warren: It was great. College wrestling is brutal. It's not easy by any stretch. I went to West Point my first year. Jack Spates recruited me to go there. That didn't really take for me. And then I transferred to Mizzou and Wes Roper was my coach. It was a good time, but it's brutal. It's tough. It's hard. That probably shaped my sense of humor a lot too because sometimes that's all you had. I remember that drudgery of going to practice … I mean, just sitting in the training room and thinking, "Oh no, man, we just have to get beat on for two hours. I remember some of the funniest stuff we would do … me and my friend Chip Bunner, who was a really good wrestler at Mizzou … Chip and I would just a lot of goofy stuff. I think we pretty much stole this idea from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But we ordered a pizza to the wrestling room from Domino's for our heavyweight, Bobby Henderson. The guy actually brought the pizza up in the middle of practice. Coach was like, "What the $#!& are you doing here?" He was like, "Well, we have a pizza, Sir" Coach was like, "Who's it for?" He was like, "It's for Henderson, Sir." And Coach was like, "Does he look like he needs a $#!&ing pizza?"

One time some local news station came out to do a story on Missouri wrestling. They interviewed me and Chip. There was a dual the following night. At the end of practice, me and Chip were messing around. We were doing like all these WWE moves, like dropkicking each other in the face and doing the pile driver. And they were filming that. Of course, that's what they showed on the newscasts that night.

We took vans back then. I think the only plane trips we took were to nationals. We took vans all over the place. I think a decent amount of my sense of humor was shaped in those vans. You're just cutting weight and miserable. The only thing you can do is sort of make fun of the situation.

Who was the toughest wrestler you ever competed against in college?

Tim Krieger
Warren: I'm trying to think … I wrestled a lot of tough guys. I think Tim Krieger would have to be up there. I think I wrestled Krieger when I was a freshman. I think Krieger wound up losing twice his whole career. I'm pretty sure there were days when I lost three. I was wrestling Krieger once. My coach, Roper, did not care who the guy was. He was like, "Warren, I don't care what you do. You go after him and take it to him. You don't show him any respect. I think Krieger was a little bit hurt at the time. But I got on top of him in the second period and put a leg Cysewski on him and I started cranking his leg pretty hard. And then they stopped the match. He went over to his corner to get looked at. I went over to my corner. I'm thinking, "Yeah, alright, finally … Roper is going to be proud of me." He was like, "Warren, I'm not sure I would have pissed him off. Now you pissed him off. He was hurt. He was just going to coast it out and beat you like 5-2. But now he's mad." Krieger killed me after that. He punished me for about four and a half minutes after that.

I think it was in the Big 8s, I had wrestled this guy from Nebraska. His name was Paul something. He wound up being an All-American that year. But I beat him … and then I wrestled Krieger. And Krieger beat me up so bad and I had to wrestle that guy again … and that guy beat me because I couldn't even move my neck. I think that is where the cauliflower ear began, actually, was in that match. But it's funny … my buddy Craig Martin was the grad assistant at that time. Krieger was doing a leg Cysewski on me and there was thing he was doing where he would just basically rip your face. And Craig noticed it and showed me that technique and I used it for like three years afterwards. Krieger was tough.

Pat Smith … He didn't physically beat you up at all, but I was so off balance wrestling that guy. I remember Smith was bitching at the ref the whole time and he was beating me like 10-2. I'm like, "What are you complaining about? I'm getting killed here?" Brian Dolph was another guy I always wrestled that I thought really tough. Steve Hamilton was another guy. I never beat him, but I had a match where I went pretty tough with him. Todd Chesbro was another guy I wrestled a lot. I could never beat Chesbro, Hamilton, or (Matt) Demaray. Those guys didn't destroy me. Actually, Chesbro pinned me once. But I had a couple decent matches with those guys, but I could never beat them.

In 1991, you were one of two All-Americans for Missouri. The other was Sammie Henson, who went on to have a great international wrestling career that included winning a world title and earning a silver medal at the Olympics. Have you kept in touch with Sammie since your college days?

Warren: I've followed his career, but I don't really stay in touch with him. He was a freshman when I was there. He was the ultimate competitor. That guy had an amazing amount of heart. He was just one of the best competitors I've ever seen.

Often times, wrestlers feel nervous before stepping out on the wrestling mat. Are there nerves involved with comedy acts? And if so, how do those nerves compare to the nerves you got as a wrestler?

Greg Warren
Warren: It's funny … I used to get super nervous before matches all the time. That's one thing I could never figure out how to get rid of. Comedy … I don't get nervous anymore unless it's TV … then sometimes I get nervous. But if it's just a night at a club, I don't get too nervous. But TV I still get a little nervous, especially if it's live TV. It's not the same thing at all. That's a problem I had originally. You don't want to be intense and pumped up for a performance. I think I made that mistake early. In fact, the guys used to make fun of me when I first started doing comedy. They would be like, "Dude, you look like you're in your wrestling stance when you're up there, man. It's not very comfortable for the crowd." So it's not the same kind of energy at all.

There are times when wrestlers come out flat and don't perform to their ability. Maybe they're just not feeling it that day. Does the same kind of thing happen in comedy?

Warren: It would be easy to try to make these comparisons, but I don't think that they're very valid … other than there is pressure in both situations. You learn how to deal with pressure as a wrestler. There is certainly pressure as a comic … and you learn how to deal with it. You definitely learn a work ethic in wrestling. I can outwork people in comedy. I have a work ethic and that has helped. There's pressure in both situations and you learn to deal with it. I don't think you deal with it in the same manner at all.

Greg Warren
How often do you incorporate wrestling experiences into your comedy?

Warren: Quite a bit. I go through phases on what I write about. I had a bit that talked about the fact that I was on the wrestling team in high school and also played the clarinet in the band. That bit has done more for me than anything. It's called Flute Man and I did it on the Bob and Tom Show. That's probably where I've gotten most of my fans. But they made that bit famous. It's all about high school wrestling. I'll probably go back to talking about it a little bit more. I sort of hit a phase for about two years where I really, really cranked out a lot of material on it. Actually, on my CD, there's quite a bit of wrestling material … probably 10, 15 minutes of wrestling material.

You have done some color commentary on college wrestling for Fox Sports Midwest. How was the experience for you? And is that something you would like to do again?

Warren: I loved it. It was awesome. I was working with Mike Kelly. He was the play-by-play guy and I was the color guy. And Mike knows everything about broadcasting and very little about wrestling. I know very little about broadcasting and everything about wrestling. So very quickly, we sort of switched and I was doing more of the play-by-play than I was the color. That was one of the most fun things I've ever done. I would do that any chance I got. It was just too much fun.

Are you still involved with wrestling at all? Do you ever go to the NCAAs or attend Missouri dual meets?

Warren: Yeah, I live in St. Louis. The NCAAs were in St. Louis. I had to do a gig on Saturday, so I missed the finals. Up until this past year, my dad was a high school wrestling coach, so I would go in there and work out with those guys a lot and help them. But I'm well out of wrestling shape. I can tell you that. I'm a huge fan of Missouri. So I stay pretty close to the program. I talk to Brian Smith every month or so during the season. I try to get up there and see the guys … either when doing a gig or just coming through town, I try to get up and see practice and see the guys.

The Missouri wrestling program has steadily climbed the college wrestling ranks … and is now one of the nation's top programs year in and year out. How does that make you feel as a Missouri alum?

Warren: It's awesome. I'm incredibly proud. They're great. It's really, really fun. There nothing more fun than watching them wrestle. A lot of times I'll be in the airport watching them online or just watching the scores come in. I can't go to as many things because I'm always traveling. I travel like 48 weeks a year. I probably have like three Saturdays off or something a year. The Internet has really helped out … because I watch a lot of it online at the airport or even sometimes backstage at a gig I'm watching wrestling. It's kind of cool.

To learn more about Greg Warren and see some of his work, visit his official Web site at www.gregwarrencomedy.com.

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