Like a lot of comedians, Leo Reich works out the kinks in his stand-up routines by pacing the floor and talking to himself.
During the pandemic, that process reached a fever pitch.
“I think that’s where a lot of the angst in the show was from,” he said about “Leo Reich: Literally Who Cares?!,” his Gen Z lampoon now streaming on Max, “the fact that I was at home in the childhood bedroom where I’d always lived with all of my old posters on the wall, just furious about the state of affairs that I was finding myself in.”
Under that strain, what began as a confessional, rather traditional set eventually morphed, he recalled in a video call from London, into a kind of self-parody “of the worst excesses of my own personality.” During the new set, Reich, 25, flop-sweats across the stage in short shorts and black eye makeup.
“It’s so funny having done a show that tries to send up on some level that whole idea of the fetishization of young talent,” he said, before elaborating on snobbery, eating animals and the freedom of humiliation, “and then essentially become what I was trying to lovingly criticize.”
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Two Pints of Beer and a Cigarette
It can be hot sun, Coronas and a Camel Blue. It can be dead of winter, subzero temperatures, two pints of Guinness and a Marlboro Red. What I will say is that after you’ve had two pints of beer and a cigarette, that is actually scientifically peak physical performance that a human being can get to. You will never feel as good as that in any other context.
Bird Watching and Pondering the Natural World
There was a period when I was 9 to 15 where I was a really obsessive bird watcher. Not to get religious about this, but sometimes in our lives we have to sit back and be in awe of the majesty of nature. It also makes you think, “God, I really know nothing about the universe because this little guy is dressed in bright, bright blue, and there is no possible explanation for that that I could possibly make sense of.”
Bad Sketch Comedy
I passionately believe that perfection is the enemy of joy. To watch someone onstage do something that is on some level quite humiliating, but have the absolute best time doing it, you get a feeling of freedom and human connection that is unparalleled.
Movies Where Nothing Happens
Any movie by Alexander Payne, Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig, anything European. Anything where a woman with ennui wanders around a medieval town and runs her hand along a curtain. Something where someone wonders, “Is this all there is to life?” That’s perfect to me.
If you’re going to kill and eat an animal, you should do it in the style of a Renaissance king and make sure that you eat the whole thing. The perfect intersection of that for me is eating a liver, a kidney, some intestines — something where you truly cannot hide away from the fact that what you are doing out of your own free will as a human being is biting into something that was once alive.
Snobbery and Reverse Snobbery
Some things I’m a snob about: superhero films, interior design, restaurants, grammar, weirdly. Things I’m not a snob about: coffee, wine, reality TV, pop music. You’ve got to choose a couple of things where you’re like, “Listen up, I know more than you about this.” And some other things where you’re like, “Don’t over-intellectualize it. I’m just here to have fun.”
You don’t need any material reason or justification for it. You can pine after literally anyone, and your brain and heart will create the most gorgeous back story out of absolutely nothing that will sustain you, in my experience, years at a time.
Dancing to ’80s Pop
I mean, if you are dancing in a club that’s got lasers in it and, I don’t know, some Pet Shop Boys, come on. It rewires your brain forever.
Novels Where Nothing Happens
The person wandering around the city is probably from the ’20s or ’30s, and they’re doing something like planning a party or collecting a package. The whole novel is a metaphor for civilizational decline. I’m talking “Mrs. Dalloway” — almost any novel by Virginia Woolf will work for this. I’m talking Flaubert’s “Sentimental Education.” Something that if someone saw you reading it, they’d go, “Oh, the guy’s an intellectual.” Little do they know you don’t understand a thing that’s going on.
Saying Something Stupid
I think that one of the nicest things in the world is to embarrass yourself in a social setting and just accept that it’s happened.