Meet Scott Long – Our 2019 Vonnegut Humor Award Winner

Scott Long has been a nationally touring stand-up comedian for 27 years, performing in 46 states and five countries. He also wrote comedy sketches for the NFL on FOX and ESPN for a combined 13 seasons. Author of a book, two CDs, and two DVDs, Scott’s greatest passion has been raising money and awareness for groups like Special Olympics and Bust Buddies, of which his daughter, Maddie, is a member. Scott mostly performs his inspirational comedy for corporate events and fundraisers. He is the co-host of two podcasts: This Might Work with Peter the Planner and The Frank Caliendo Cast. Scott is proof you can achieve many of your creative goals all while based in the Indianapolis area. The Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library (KVML) is proud to announce that Scott is the winner of the Kurt Vonnegut Humor Award. Past recipients include Alec Baldwin, Jimmy Kimmel, Peter Sagal, Mike Birbiglia, and Leonard Hoops.

 

How and when did you get into comedy, and why do you think
it’s so important to make people laugh?

I was motivated to do comedy for selfish
reasons. I needed attention and affirmation that I didn’t get growing up in a
dysfunctional home. I wanted to be the next George Carlin or Bill Hicks, using
my “angry man” takes to expose things that irritated me. I had some success
with this, but I sure wasn’t on the level of my aforementioned heroes. That
tone gradually shifted. One reason I’m performing 27 years later is that I try
to evolve to better reflect the changes in my own life. Today, my comedy
includes personal life stories that I hope bring laughter and inspiration to
the audience. Stand-up comedy has given me the opportunity to meet so many people,
which has helped me be less judgmental about those with differing world views.
It’s like I’ve been on a permanent Iowa and New Hampshire presidential
campaign, going from town to town and connecting with people in a way I never
could have if I were sitting in a cubicle. The job takes a lot of hard work and
hustle to stay relevant in my little pocket of show business, but I feel
blessed to bring laughter and joy to others through my profession.

Scott Long with Julia Whitehead at WFYI.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Laughter and tears are both
responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there
is less cleaning up to do afterward.” What do you think he meant by
that?

Whew!
Trying to get in the mind of Kurt Vonnegut is tough. I love the quote,
though, and for me it means that when you use humor in response to a difficult
situation, it takes away some of the edginess. It allows everyone to decompress
and maybe gain more perspective that is lost when people are filled with
frustration and anxiety. I grew up in a home with a raging, bipolar father, and
my sense of humor was my way of coping.

When did you first become aware of and/or read Vonnegut?
Which book or work of his makes you laugh?

At the award ceremony, I joked that like most us, this was the first Vonnegut book
I read . . . and then I held up the Slaughterhouse-Five CliffsNotes.
This happened in college, but the themes in the CliffsNotes were so great, it
made me get to the real thing. Later, my brother told me his favorite book was Breakfast
of Champions
, which became my favorite too because of how truly funny it is.
Asking a Vonnegut fan like me which is the funniest of his books is kind of
like asking someone to choose the funniest Monty Python sketch.

Comedy is often performed in nightclubs or big venues. You prefer
to bring your stand up to corporate and charitable events, which is less
common. Why do you think it’s important to reach those kinds of audiences?

I performed for two decades at the major comedy clubs, but eventually, I wasn’t
enjoying the experience. The core audience at comedy clubs has always been 21-
to 35-year-olds. I have a show that connects with all ages, but political
correctness in the early adult range has become increasingly difficult to manage
as a comedian. It’s something the best comedians of my generation like Chris
Rock, Bill Burr, and Dave Chappelle have commented on, too. I believe Kurt
Vonnegut would be shocked at how some on the left are now driving artistic
censorship. After spending the first part of my career feeling like the
conservative right was the enemy of artistic expression, the shift to the other
side of the political spectrum has been disappointing. The weird thing is that
while performing at corporate events for the MAN requires PG language and
subject matter, I don’t feel any anxiety, as the lines are pretty clearly drawn
in what is acceptable. I still bring an irreverent sensibility to my show,
though, which is one reason I believe I stand out. Fundraisers are my favorite events,
as my inspirational comedy stories fit so perfectly, and I feel a great sense
of accomplishment helping raise money and awareness for important causes.

What does the Kurt Vonnegut Humor Award mean to you?

When I attended the University of Iowa, there was a pride from those of us who were
in English or writing departments that Kurt Vonnegut had lived in Iowa City and
taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Learning that he had written much of Slaughterhouse-Five
while there only added to this alumni pride. Living in Indianapolis, a city
that Vonnegut always stated was at the core of his writing tone, has magnified
my connection to him. There are awards that I felt I should’ve have won during
my career that I didn’t, so getting this award was a beautiful mistake that I
am proud to have been honored with. I am taking this award in the spirit of Vonnegut’s
quote, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we
pretend to be”  

Now that the Vonnegut Library has a permanent home in
Indianapolis, what do you think people who have not been to KVML or are just
learning about Kurt Vonnegut should know?

One of the things that is wonderful about the writing of Kurt Vonnegut is how much his books still offer insight into today’s society. The library celebrates this sense of vibrancy that his writing brings to the world. Vonnegut’s grandfather and father were very influential in the architecture of Indianapolis during the early twentieth century, and the “new” building beautifully fits that tone. Besides the historic works featured, the Vonnegut-inspired paintings by artist Lance Miccio are a true highlight that should not be missed.

Scott Long with some of his fans at the Kurt Vonnegut Humor Award presentation.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’ve spent a career in the arts (yes, stand-up comedy is definitely an art form), which has allowed me to fulfill most of my creative dreams. I was offered television opportunities in Los Angeles but chose to focus on my writing and my stand-up in “Flyover Country” rather than chasing Hollywood fantasies. My greatest passion is sharing my story as a father of a daughter, Maddie, who is on the autism spectrum. Bringing her spirit into the stories I tell to help others better understand people with disabilities is my proudest achievement. If people want to learn more about me, they can go to my website scottcomedy.com, or follow Maddie and me at facebook.com/happymondayswithmaddie. Maddie has helped me fulfill the Vonnegut quote, “Poison minds with humanity. Be an agent of change.” 

 

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