Bonus: Corey Interviewed on SiriusXM
Did you know Corey is the published author of two books? Laugh Lines is a collection of comedian interviews, and The Union of The State is the oral history of comedy troupe, The State, that had a sketch comedy show on MTV in the 1990s.
Despite the troupe’s popularity, The State never toured the country – until now! Eight members of The State are currently touring, and Corey will check out the Boston show (and hopefully catch up with The State.)
Here is a bonus episode when Corey was interviewed on SiriusXM about The Union of The State.
We're doing Flashback Friday with the author Corey Stulce, who has released a book called The Union of the State. Thank you for coming in. Thank you for having me. We're super excited. I'm a big fan of the state, as is Kyle and many people. But tell me before we get into it, like your relationship with the state and what made you do this book. Well, it goes back to the state first started right.
I was a senior in high school and it was just that was like my sketch show. It was like, oh my god These guys are speaking directly to me. And so once I got to college and started working for the college newspaper by that time The state was off the air Central so I interviewed Tom And Carrie Kenny for a big spread on that and it's just kind of built from there I've been you know done several interviews with most of the members over the years on different projects and
when they reunited in 2009 at San Francisco SketchFest, I had just moved to the Bay Area. The show sold out in like a hot second. And so I was standing outside the theater just kind of like trying to finagle my way in, which it didn't happen. Yeah, I was like, oh wow. But on that night I thought, you know what? No one has ever really told these guys full story. Maybe there should be a book. And so I started just.
pursuing it with individual members asking if there was interest there and they'd always talked about it but it was one of those things if one of the members didn't pick it up and take it, it wasn't going to happen and it hadn't happened yet. So I just started off doing a couple of sample interviews to see where the story would go and it just kind of took off from there and it was a four and a half year process getting this book. Wow. You know what is amazing Cory and you can hopefully confirm this for me because I've you've obviously spent more time with these people than I have.
I've interviewed a bunch of members of the state over the course of my career. And with a group this disparate and with so many different personalities, you'd assume one person would be a jerk. But not a single one has ever been a jerk. Like it was just so weird and bizarre, particularly in the comedy world. Yes. Where, you know, there's jerks. I've met some jerks. I love writing about comedy. I love comedians. But yeah, I've met a couple of... There's a handful of jerks. Non-fun comedians. The thing that is most remarkable to me... And now this is a very interesting one.
So the group gets its start at New York University. Yes. And the thing that I find most incredible is that they get started in a time in New York where there wasn't. Because now you can't swing a microphone without hitting a sketch group or an improv troupe or whatever. But there wasn't that kind of infrastructure for this type of comedy in New York in the early 90s at all, which really makes their lives kind of incredible. Yes. I mean, it was all, it was do it yourself. Absolutely. I mean, there was nothing set up for that.
It was just amazing that not only does, but do 11 people get together in college and form this successful comedy troupe that actually started to get a fan base outside of New York University, but then to stay together after graduation and almost immediately get their own TV show on MTV. It's just like that happened overnight. It's just.
So many things kind of fell into place for these people. It's absolutely amazing. Well, also I think what was fascinating was just like reading portions of your book already, like that boobin out that's saying that they basically all met on like the first day of school, too, at NYU, which is like, I can't believe that they meet once. And it was like, lifelong friends, 11 of us. There was some kind of magnet that was just pulling these people together. I mean, it's just like, it's weird that all these little things just happen to happen like, oh, well, yeah, Ken Reno was right across the hall. He was the first person that I met. Yeah, it's just,
crazy, but there was something that was pulling these people together and it's interesting because they're all so different, their senses of humor are so different and just doing the book, getting all of them to agree on certain things was a challenge because it's 11 big personalities and so I can only imagine what it was like trying to put together a live show within the group and all the different ideas coming in and the disagreements and stuff so it's...
You know, with 11 people, it's a miracle that they were able to produce as much as they have. Yeah. Well, that's the thing too, is that they have been, I mean, essentially kind of the defining comedy group in the past two decades, because we're still, you know, through in television, in movies, I mean, like, we're still, you know, really, like, they're around. They're everywhere. Yes. You know. Keegan-Michael Key, who wrote the foreword to the book.
kind of say perfectly, but they were kind of, they formed this comedy mafia and they just keep kind of adding hit men and different members to that group because yeah, I mean, they touch virtually everybody working in comedy today. And it's interesting because they were so insular when they started, and I think it took after the group split up to realize like, oh, we can actually work with other people and grow and do different things. And that's when Stella started and things like that. And I think that's when they started to, you know,
the comedy world. Oh, I only started watching Reno 911 because I recognize Thomas Lennon Van Garen. I was like, oh, they're from the state. I have to watch this TV show, which is like insane. And that happens over and over and over and over again. Yes. Usually I have to, what I've been explaining to people, you know, like my mom, what I'm writing about, because she has never heard of the state. But as soon as I say Reno 911, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, the short shorts and the mustache. Everybody knows Reno. So that's, that seems to be the way that I
signature look. Yes. Do you have a favorite sketch from from the state? Oh gosh it's so hard to to pick but I was you might ask. Oh so
One of the ones that I really go back to is the Taco Man sketch that Kevin Allison did. It was one of the weirder sketches. And why I like it so much, because I've heard the back story, is that it was one of these things that they probably wouldn't have gotten all of them to agree on if they were sitting down in a room and doing it in front of a live studio audience. But it just happened to be a handful of them were off taping something else. They had the video camera. They had this weird idea for a mailman who stops delivering the mail and only starts delivering tacos. I just did it.
11 members and they had it in the can and it was like okay this is weird and fun yeah let's do it yeah they have great i loved doug like oh yeah doug was great like yeah he was one of my favorites going back and looking at these these old episodes it really does have a very kind of handmade quality to it like were they when when MTV decided to put these guys on television they also basically
They, it was like a zero budget show. I mean, the people. You can tell, yes. Yeah. But I think to their benefit, it's that they already had that.
work ethic set up and then the idea that you know they're pulling lamps and stuff from mom's house to as props and so they were able to just take a camera and go out and just produce right and you know they'd already done that for the live shows they had done that to a certain degree with their short lived MTV show you know that you watch it which was hosted by Jon Stewart they did basically sketch on that and it just kind of continued that I think.
Yeah, MTV at that time they weren't mold for comedy. They'd had remote control, I think, at that point the game show, but really they hadn't done anything like sketch. And so I think they were just like, well, let's see what these kids can do. Well, is that sort of the story? It was like, how was it that it got even onto MTV's plate? Was it just via like submitting? No, it was really just lucky.
David Wayne had a good family friend who was doing rockumentaries at MTV. And so he had kind of hung around MTV a little bit, sort of an intern and knew that they were looking for comedy groups to produce material for this You Wrote It, You Watch It show. And finally what they ended up doing was sneaking into MTV in the middle of the night, making a short movie that kind of helped get them to work. Wow. Yes, yeah. I feel like you can't do that anymore. I don't know. Probably not.
There's such a great like, you know, like hardscrabble stealth kind of things. Like we're just going to show up and do it. Yeah. It's just such a great, and I feel like that's the, like, it weirdly is like one of the things that really impressed me about all the people in this group is that like they all seem, they all have a great work ethic. Like they all really have worked very hard to, you know, to get to where they are. And that's why their personalities are so well defined and they're, you know, they're such great writers. Absolutely. Yeah. And it's, they're all so prolific. It's just amazing to watch them.
put something together. I was looking up to go to the rehearsals for their last reunion which was in 2014 and they essentially showed up here in LA a few days before the show. Didn't really have anything prepared. They hadn't all performed together in years and they just kind of you know cobbled together with greatest hits and some new sketches and even during the soundcheck and the final dress rehearsal they didn't have all 11 members there. Michael Ian Black's playing was late so I'm watching this thing you know two hours before they're
What is this going to be like? I mean, there's going to be thousands of people at this comedy festival. And it's like they haven't been able to do a full run through. And then, I mean, as soon as the music, the theme song started, it was just amazing to watch. I mean, they just, boom, they weren't like.
back together and like they don't perform together every day. Now, just in terms of the book is the book is out now is called the Union of the State, which has to been like, 90% transcribed. Yes. Right. I mean, it was probably a lot of, you know, views and then you'd be like, I think to type all this up, like, is that sort of the worst part of it? It was, you know, that was a big challenge early on. I've got a wonderful, wonderful assistant named.
Kate who did a lot of the transcriptions like the ladder half once we started getting to not just talking to all members of the state, but there's like 30 other people in there. And so we're talking hundreds of hours. Bless her she she came in and did a lot of that for me, which was really helpful because
Yeah, I don't know if people know how much of time that takes. But it is. It's crazy. I mean, as entertainment journalists, I'm sure we all can feel each other's pain. But yeah, I mean, I don't know that I would take on another project of this scope again with 11 central people. Because it's just once you've done a couple of interviews with everybody, then that prompts 10 more interviews. Because of the stories they've told, oh, you should talk to So and Zone. What about the costume design? What about, you know, it was just, which was great. It was a blast. But it was, you know.
four and a half years. Was there anything that everybody recounted differently? We're just like, which one do I go with? You know, I mentioned that at the beginning of the book, that there are definitely some differences of opinions, but I left them in because one, I thought it was very funny and it was just kind of interesting to see how people were thinking back 20 something years, how their memories kind of changed. And so I think the biggest one and that they all mentioned this is that when they left MTV to go to CBS, there's definitely some fuzzy memories there as to like
and why they left and if they still had a deal at MTV and all that's a little bit fuzzy. I think there was a lot of manager-agenting going on at the time. Does the group have an alpha and is that person changed throughout history? I don't think they do. I really don't think. I think it's an 11-headed beast. That, you know, depending on who's got the funniest idea at the time, I think that's what they go with. That's kind of wild. Yeah.
I can't imagine trying to move that group around with the course of 11 people, like even in college, trying to get everybody, you know what I mean? To be on the same page.
When it came time to making some important decisions for the book, and then all along they kept telling me, hey, this is your book, however you want to do it, but I really wanted them to be okay with every big decision that we made. That was the challenging part, was like these email chains that would all of a sudden go, somebody's talking about, somebody had a baby and somebody's talking about this, like, hey, can we get back to, what photo would you like for the customer? And I mean, getting them all to agree on that, I don't know.
Glen Hansen, a great artist, did a piece for the back cover, which I initially was hoping would be part of the front cover, but that ended up being flip-flopped with him last minute. So it's still in there, but yeah. Yeah, just getting it all together. Right. Which I guess everyone lives in California now, right? Or is that... Most of them do. Todd, who left the group right after the MTV days, actually lives in Seoul, Korea. He does art installations and teaches there.
Kevin Allison has never left New York City. He's based there. He does Podcast and live show called risk and then Michael Ian black also Right everybody else pretty much everyone else made their way out to Hollywood. Yes. Yeah, that's so crazy to think about So most of them will yeah, we'll Be around tomorrow night. We're having a book release show party at Operating Citizens Brigade on Sunset tomorrow at 7 They're supposed to all be there
Except for the ones that live in the newspaper. You're like, they're supposed to always tentative, right? Well, we're still like going back and forth, but they asked what exactly the show is going to be. Well, I'm just going to ask, like, are they going to do a sketch, or is it going to be a Q&A? They are going to do something. Yeah, I'm going to be, I'm seeing the Q&A portion of it, but...
All along we've talked about, well, do I do a performance? Do you not want to do a performance? And they will be doing something. I don't know exactly what. Great. Then I think that's kind of fun. The first raw energy. Yes. The first year Roche you wear ponchos, I think just in case. Yeah. And you know, I'm excited to see what's going on. Yeah, I like that. Now, Corey, do you have a favorite sort of post state project that you mentioned the variety before, which I'm also have a great amount of affection for, but is there, is there something that they had done subsequently and subsequent to the
show that you feel like is, oh, that's sort of those guys at their peak. You know, I love Vivip and I also love Stella, I think. That's fantastic. Michael Ian Black, Damian Wayne, and Michael Showalter, those three guys in suits on a stage just really doing weird, silly, childish stuff. And really, it's hard to pick a project because those guys, the ones that show up, the character actors in the group, like Tom Lennon, whenever he shows up on a TV show or a movie, he immediately jumps out at me. And I think he just makes
it a little bit more special. Same with Joel and Trulio, when he pops up in a little bit of a small role, it's just like, oh wow, it's good to see them. Not just because I'm a fan, it's just I think they really bring an added element of comedy to whatever they're involved in. Oh, if you had told me last year, it's like, hey, they're remaking The Odd Couple. I'm like, I'm not gonna watch that. But Tom Lennon is amazing on that. He really makes that show. He's great. He's so good. He is. He's a really great film. He is. Yeah. It's tremendous. I'm curious, just for you as such a fan and going through the history of the state
Was there anything that was super surprising to you that you learned about it?
There were a couple of stories that I wasn't able to include that surprised me. Oh. But no, I mean, I was happily, I had a feeling that these were genuinely really nice, good people. And as you said earlier, I mean, they really are. So I was happily relieved that they all were. There wasn't like a joke or two like, I'm going to talk to so and so. Yeah, I'm going to call so and so. They've been fantastic. Nice. I'm totally supportive of this.
So how long was it, you know, like start date to now that we have the book out? How long have you been working on this? I looked at the, the file I created to start the book last week and it started on January 22nd, 2012. Okay. And that was really when I started the first thing I did with, I transcribed all the DVD commentaries, just kind of get some backstories. That took a while. Oh wow. And then right after I said sketch fest 2012 is when I started doing
individual interviews with a group and it started with Kevin Allison, I went to Kerry Kenny and went on one and it took through that entire year was right before Christmas 2012 that I finally did my first interview with Ken Marino and then all of a sudden I got the vibe from them that it was starting to become real and so we kind of had a powwow and I said here's my proposal and my presentation of what I'd like to do. That was the beginning of 2013 and then from there it just.
from interview after interview after interview. Just rammed out. Yes. And so as I would get things transcribed, I just started putting things into time periods and chunks. Like, OK. I'm going to do the post-EP TV years. Really, it wasn't. I'm going to do the post-EP TV years.
Super long word.
estate by the way. I love it. It kind of snuck up on you. It did. It needed to be done though. It did. Yeah, so it's that was interesting when I came to because we self-published so it's like, oh okay, it's a little bit more responsive to print a six-page whole. You're like, oh man. It's fantastic. But I don't know what I would take it. Yeah, no you can't. Yeah, you go back. I'm so excited to read this cover to cover. I mean, I met David Wade at Comic-Con who was
Children's Hospital and I told him how my sister and I were obsessed with the state. It was right after my parents had blocked it and we used to, you know like when it used to be blocked it would flash for like three seconds and during the state we would like watch it for three seconds and change the channel and then go back to it. Just like kind of see what was happening with characters and things. He has the weirdest childhood. I know he always like lessons but my parents blocked it and so and like before they blocked it we used VHS tape MTV. They were so dumb in the sense they were like
VHS taping MTV until they blocked it. So I have such fun memories of like growing up watching the state and loving it so much. Sunder Rebel, or at least 3 seconds of it. I watched most of it, but yeah, and then like just like that was like my first anything I saw of sketch comedy, which I'm probably was for many people. Yeah, very, I mean very very formative for me too. Yeah, Cory, you've read a lot about
about comedy over the course of your, was there a moment from your youth where you're just like, oh, like I really just want to have conversations with comedians. You know, I think my dad introduced me to a lot of comedy when I was really young that I probably shouldn't have seen. You know, five years old watching Monty Python on the Holy Grail maybe isn't the best thing, or Blazing Saddles, or you know, the Backward Blue Sheets center my live years, but I think just really
started to watch Saturday Night Live at like five or six years old. I was like, wow, this is amazing. And I love what these people do and what they're able to create, you know, every week. And it would be interesting to talk to these people. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming through and
Everyone should go pick up this bug. It's called the Union of the State by Corey Stulce, who has joined us for Flashback Friday. And now you're touring it around. You're going multiple Q&As. There's one happening this weekend in Los Angeles. Yeah. It's I'm calling it the Coast to Coast Tour because we're doing many New York and two weeks, but that's essentially it for right now. And then you're going to hear, he's exhausting you guys. He just wrote a 600 page book. We are. I'm from St. Louis, so we're going to do a St. Louis show on June 25th. But that's it. It's yeah. Awesome. Well, everyone go pick up the book. Corey, come back and visit us at some point.
We'll do an update because there's things always happening as you mentioned. We already know that Wet Hot American Summer will continue on. So I'm gonna have to add to this book. Yeah, absolutely. It'll get even longer. How exciting. Yeah, we're gonna take a break when we come back.