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Meet Josh Simpson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Josh Simpson.

Josh, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin and went to Syracuse University where I started improvising and writing comedy. I started taking classes at UCB in 2005 while I was still in college and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue a comedy career full time in 2007. I’ve done the whole UCB thing and written and worked for Funny or Die and TeamCoco. I also did a Twitter account satirizing the BP oil spill in 2010 called @BPGlobalPR that helped me get jobs. We (me and a bunch of my friends who helped write the jokes) raised $20k for the Gulf Restoration Network just by making fun of BP on Twitter and trying to spread some useful information from time to time.

I’ve been making things on my own and teaching independently since about 2013 or so. Jake and I did a train tour across the USA in 2017 and toured Europe at around this time last year with our podcast The MEAT Improv. It was a ton of fun.

Now I’m just trying to write and create things I like with people I love, while still being open to available to audition for a Monsanto commercial from time to time.

Raising $20k for the gulf restoration efforts is an amazing accomplishment. How have things been since?  Has it been a smooth road and if not what were some of the main challenges?
Yes, silky smooth. No professional or personal problems at all. My one weakness is that I work too damn hard.

The truth is, if you’re going to even attempt to work in a creative field in Hollywood, you’re going to face disappointment eight out of ten times, and I think that’s even a generous guesstimate. I’ve had some success and a ton of failures. I’ve had scripts rejected, agencies turn me down, I’ve missed out on promotions when I feel I deserved them and I’ve been rejected countless times in auditions and cut from house teams. I’m a sensitive guy (so I’m told), and this used to really, really affect me and my sense of self-worth and belonging.

The lesson I learned from all of that and the thing I try to remember today is that I can’t let my happiness depend on other people. Practical ways I’ve fought back and found success is 1) I’ve tried to create my own space to do the things I love whenever possible. So for instance, no one can cut me from The MEAT Improv or tell me how to improvise there. And no one can take away the workshops I teach, because I run them.

I’ve worked at more than once “cool” companies here in Los Angeles, and one thing I learned is that people will settle for doing some job they hate in order to be “cool” by association at a “cool” company. I hate that, and I don’t care about that anymore. I feel like people out here clam up when you ask what they do because we’re all afraid we suck. We probably do suck, but when I ask that question I usually am just curious to know what that person likes to do or what they’re excited about.

So I guess through the rough patches, I sort of learned to prioritize my happiness over my coolness and to create spaces for my work where I don’t answer to anybody. Every time I’ve done those things, my life has improved.

Prioritizing your happiness over what other people think is definitely solid advice, thank you for sharing that with us.  I’m sure there are many out there who needed to hear that advice. Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
The MEAT Improv is just an improv and storytelling podcast. We ask guests to come on and share something meaningful or specific to them (aka “meaty”) and then we goof around and improvise scenes with our friends.

I’m proud that our show can go from talking about meaningful subjects and stories to doing a scene about a farting priest at the drop of a hat. I like that balance between having real conversations (something a lot of improvisers don’t really do) and goofing around.

I’m also proud that we’ve been able to tour and meet so many amazing people all over the world through the podcast, and it’s always nice to find a fan in a place you wouldn’t expect. One of our biggest supporters is a doctor currently in Africa fighting Ebola. I think that’s kinda cool.

As for Woo Hoo Improv, I love teaching and I love making it my own. I’m proud of the weekly jam I do Sundays at 9:15 pm at The Complex Hollywood where literally anyone can come improvise for free.

What were you like growing up?
I was always a pretty outgoing kid. I was very active. I did gymnastics for ten years and was the Wisconsin state champion for Level 6 when I was nine years old. It was all downhill from there.

I remember seeing SNL when I spent the night at the house of one of my gymnastics teammates. That was the first time I saw Farley and I absolutely fell in love with him and the show.

I learned to play guitar and music in high school and there was a while there where that was my first focus over comedy.

I also grew up conservative and Lutheran, which is a conversation for another time, I think.

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