Nore Davis is a rising star in the world of comedy with a recent performance in the 2014 New Faces Of Comedy showcase at the Montreal Just For Laughs comedy festival, along with appearances on Comedy Central, MTV, and Gotham Comedy Live on AXS TV. He also has television-acting roles in Inside Amy Schumer, Last Week Tonight, and the Emmy Award winning HBO series Boardwalk Empire. To add to his list of accomplishments, he just released his debut album, Home Game, which is now available on iTunes. Nore was nice enough to share his story, talk shop, and give some advice & wisdom about the comedy journey. Enjoy!
So you’re what, 9-10 years in?
Hm…going on 10, but who keeps track?! [laughs] Just keep writing and keep being funny. And make money doing what you love. ‘Cause if you ain’t makin’ money, it’s a goddamn hobby! And hobbies don’t pay.
What got you into comedy?
In college, I did improv, but I sucked at it! So I didn’t like it. [laughs] I felt like I had to find my own way. Then, Ben Bailey came into my college and he was FUNNY! And now, I perform at colleges and kids come up to me like, “How’d you get started?” And he was the one who did that for me when I was in college! It’s really cool seeing that.
Who were your comedy inspirations?
I studied Pryor and Murphy and Cosby because the guys I look up to looked up to them. But, those guys weren’t my generation. My generation is comedians like Chris Rock, Patrice O’Neal, Bill Burr, Jim Gaffigan, Doug Stanhope, Dave Chappelle. Those guys are like my Pryors and Carlins.
Who are your comedy mentors? Did anybody take you under their wing?
Tracy Morgan—I did the road with him for about a year.
Wow! What was that like?
Man, it was great! He’s like the realest mu’fucka I know! He took me in when I went through a bad break up with my fiancé, it was horrible! And he told me, [Tracy Morgan impression] Yo man, get yo shit togetha, man! That bitch is gone, don’t worry ‘bout her now! You still worryin?? Look man…she’s fuckin anotha nigga, aight??? You over it?? Okay! Get it together!”
[moment of laughter]
He picked me up and had me featuring for him. He put money in my pocket, and he really taught me a lot. He’s one of my great mentors. I’d get to be on the set of 30 Rock and really watch him work. He’s a real dude, a real cool guy, would never steer you wrong. It was a blessing.
What’s an average number of sets you do in a night?
What are your thoughts on submitting to comedy festivals?
I mean, all it is is paying an admission to perform in someone’s living room—and you have to pay your way, buy your own food… It’s basically a town that’s trying to create its own comedy community, but you don’t need that because if you just stay where you’re at and bust your ass, those places will invite you out. All that matters is getting good and making a name for yourself. The biggest festival is Just For Laughs in Montreal. That’s the one you want to get INVITED to. That’s the best one. All those other ones, I say save your money.
During those years of grinding it out, did your friends or family members ever pressure you to quit and get a “real job”?
Oh yeah, all the time! Everybody would always be like, “So how’s your little comedy thing going??” I would just think, “Man, fuck you! It’s a work in progress! Don’t disrespect me!” [laughs] But, that’s normal. People don’t know what it takes to be involved in something like this. You’re actually becoming your own boss, and your own product.
Elaborate on how a comedian becomes their own product.
You are building your own brand, which is yourself. It’s like at the supermarket, you’ve got Bounty taking up most of the aisle—which is like Kevin Hart status—and then you have comics like me and open-mikers toward the end of the aisle that’s nothin’ but generic store brand! [laughs] We’re building our product and we’re building our self so that we can get to the front of the store.
How do you know when you’re ready to get a manager and an agent?
They’ll come to you. Once you’re ready, and you start making noise, they’ll come to you. Just get funny. Next thing you know, people will be requesting these types of things for you. Just keep hitting it hard, and those kinds of things will reach out to you.
What advice do you have on how to build a strong reputation?
Be funny and make friends. Because, the best type of advertising is word of mouth. So it’s like, “Ohh you’re funny! Come do my show!” And you just start networking through there, and the people that actually like your stuff will fuck with you, and vice versa. You support each other. You gotta be around a bunch of people where you all enjoy each others’ work. People would rather work with somebody that’s nice instead of somebody who has great work but is an asshole. So be part of the community, be part of all the support, and make people laugh.
What are your thoughts on comics who trade spots in their rooms to get spots at other rooms?
Yeah, that’s like the old system where they’d trade sugar for spices ‘n shit like that. [laughs] It’s a barter system, basically. It’s kinda cheating, but it won’t last that long. ‘Cause stand up is the purest justice. You could have all that stuff, but there’s no longevitiy. You just have to recognize that system and find a way to work it, and then get what you want out of it. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right. It is what it is. It’s part of the game. And it’s a game with no refs.
What inspired the title of your album, Home Game?
I decided to call my album Home Game because I was on the road for the past 4-5 years featuring, hosting, performing in colleges, casinos—but those were pretty much jobs with requirements like, “Be clean!” or “Say this instead of this!” or “Don’t say it like this, say it like THIS!” So, in this past year, I just stayed in the city to hone my craft, work my voice, and really find who I am.
How did you know you were ready for an album?
On the road, I had a number of bits that just kept hitting HARD. And it just felt right to put it all out there. I knew I was ready because I didn’t wanna say that shit anymore—I wanted to put it down and put it away. I wanted to build a new hour. So now, everything that I’ve done on the road is on the album—it’s a wrap. Doing that forces you to push forward.
What do you hope to accomplish with this album?
When you do auditions, it’s a long shot, because they’re looking for what THEY want. It’s not about what YOU want. I hated to feel that powerless. But, when you release your own album, you have power: You’re the boss, you’re the writer, you’re the director, you’re in control of everything. And that’s what I want. I want to make something great that hopefully everybody will like and enjoy, and just build from there. I want to be able to have a body of work. Just getting from one milestone to the next.
What is the next milestone for you?
The next one is getting maybe a half hour, or a late night set. I’d love to be able to work on a TV show and write. I want to get my name out there so that I can headline clubs on the road. If you have a body of work that people can recognize you from, people will then be like, “Oh! I saw him on TV and now he’s coming here! The cake is when people physically buy tickets to see you. There’s nothing better. That’s what we’re all trying to work towards—people who know you and want to come see you. The goal is to make it a home game all around the country!
COMEDY & SUCCESS
What is it like to have finally reached a level of success?
Man, that’s cool that you say that. I still think I ain’t shit! [laughs] I’m not impressed with myself, I still know I can be better, and I always make sure to say “Thank you” and never disrespect anyone no matter what I accomplish.
What is the key to staying humble in a business that is so ego-driven?
Just never get comfortable. I never want to be like, “Yeah! That’s right! I DID do that!” [laughs] Always stay humble. Never let that ego get in the way—that’s a destroyer. Hannibal (Buress) never felt accomplished, Chris Rock never felt accomplished, Joan Rivers never felt accomplished—she was 81 and kept going!
What do you think it takes to succeed at the level of the comedians you look up to?
Definitely a lot of patience. If there’s something that I don’t get this year, I’ll go for it next year! This is what I do! I ain’t goin’ nowhere. You gotta be in it for the long haul, ‘cause guys like Louis C.K. are still working! And, they have a great body of work, so anything they do is easier for them to get there. Younger comics have to do something so much better and more impactful to even scratch the surface!
Comedy takes place at night, and it’s around all types of bad habits: Drinking, drugs, girls, bad food, etc. How do you stay in shape for television?
Your body will straight up tell you, “Look, if you don’t get it together, you’re gonna die!” [laughs] On my album, the hospital bit—that’s true! That bit came to life because I was eating horribly and my gall bladder got inflamed. I’d eat McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell—just binge eating after a show, and then I’d go home and lay down, so it wouldn’t digest properly. After having to go the hospital, I had to chang my diet habits.
Just have discipline, don’t eat that shit. And it’s easy to fall into these habits, especially when they pay you with drink tickets! But you have to ask yourself, “What’s the goal? Are you here to tell jokes, or are you here to party? This ain’t a night club, it’s a COMEDY club!” So, I really changed my mentality and just look at it like, “I’m here for stage time and that’s it.” My main focus is, “When am I going up? What am I working on? When can I do it again?” The main focus is to get better, to get funnier.
Final Thoughts / Words of Wisdom?
Always aim higher. Just be as funny as you can. The only person standing in your way is yourself. That’s the person you have to be better than.
INTERVIEWED & WRITTEN BY David Gavri