with Murray Valeriano:
Get Murray’s new album “Rusty Cow” at any of the following:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?
Murray: I guess I stumbled into writing while I was performing in the clubs. I had a weekly sketch/improv/standup show at the Ice House in Pasadena. Myself and the other guys would meet every Thursday before the weekend of shows and write bits and jokes. At the time my influences – some might even might say I was stealing from – British comedy like Monty Python and The Young Ones. I also tried to be a lot like Woody Allen, which proved to be very difficult for an Italian raised in New Jersey. Eventually we shot a pilot for that show and like most pilots, it didn’t go anywhere. But the production company we were working with hired me to write another pilot. That did get picked up and that started my TV writing career. That sketch group dissolved and I continued on as a stand up and writer. Since then, I’ve performed in 6 different countries and I’ve written for TV, film, radio, newspapers and magazines. I feel very fortunate to have stumbled into something like writing that I love to do, but I don’t think it would’ve never happened if it wasn’t for stand up.
Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?
Murray: I feel like my biggest influences today are my friends. I have somehow surrounded myself with some of the funniest people I have ever met. Their constant output of quality material – whether it be writing, performing or podcasting, really makes me try to step up my game.
Q3: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer/comedian?
Murray: I have always wanted to be a stand up, so there was really no pivotal moment with that. But it took some time for me to really pursue it. There was one moment when I was starting out that was extremely pivotal. I was supposed to do 3 minutes on an open mic. I had maybe 2 minutes of material. None of it particularly funny. The Emcee of the show left the room during my set and I ended up being on stage for 25 minutes. I was forced to think on my feet and riff for close to a half hour… and it went great. That night I realized I can do this… and then I went on to bomb consistently for the next 2 and half to three years, before I started getting any good.
Q4: Who has helped you most with your writing & comedic career?
Murray: I feel like if it wasn’t for the Executive Producer of that first pilot, Mack Anderson, I would be a totally different writer, if even a writer at all. He gave me a shot having never written for television before and showed me the ropes. He continued to hire me on different shows throughout the years and I believe my style of writing, especially for television is a direct result of him.
Q5: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing/comedy & did any travels away from home influence your work?
Murray: I was born in Memphis, but we moved around a bit when I was young. We eventually settled in New Jersey. I feel like having lived in the South, Midwest, West and East has been extremely beneficial when it comes to writing and standup. When I’m touring through those states, I can draw on my own experiences and knowledge of having lived there. Being that I write mostly from personal experiences, anything I can absorb and take in, can be pulled out at anytime. Since this question is about travel, I’ll give you an example. When my son was 2, we lived in a suburb of Calgary called Okotokes for about 3-6 months. Not really sure how long, I tried to block it out. It was rough. I was a stay at home dad, in a small town in another country where we didn’t know anybody and the town was shut down due to the worst flood on record. Again, it was rough. Four or five years later, I’m performing in Las Vegas and on this particular night there was a table of Canadian’s from… Okotokes. I ended up doing 10 minutes on a town that only 4 of the 300 people in that room have ever heard of and it was great. All 300 loved it. I have never done that stuff on Okotokes since… and I probably won’t.
Q6: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
Murray: I really feel like what I’m doing in my live show now, is probably the most meaningful work I’ve done. I had very serious health scare a couple of years ago. I ended up having emergency open heart surgery. Spoiler alert, I lived. I talk about that experience on stage now. After shows people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed the show and share their own experiences with me. I remember I did a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. The room was filled with cancer survivors, people battling cancer and people who have lost loved ones. I was really nervous because I do a bit about how you will never forget the day you are told you are going to die… I know it doesn’t read funny here, you have to see the whole bit. I was debating on dropping that bit for the show. I didn’t know where these people were on their journey. I ended up doing it and it did great. But the best part, the meaningful part, was after the show at the meet and greet, people would walk up to me and say “I remember that day. May 3rd. 2007” “August 14th. 1998” “October 11, 2014. They gave me a year. I’m not even supposed to be here today!”
Q7: What are your favorite activities to relax?
Murray: My favorite activity to relax is probably surfing. It’s by far my favorite activity. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when there are double overhead waves and you are anything but relaxed, but for the most part being out on the ocean, watching dolphins swim under you and riding waves alone or with my friends not only relaxes me, but really balances out my head.
Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza/joke from you or others?
Murray: I do have some favorite lines I have written in the last 20 years, but I don’t know if I feel comfortable quoting myself here. A lot of my favorite lines from others, are just that, lines. One maybe two sentences in a song, a story or a movie that tells the audience there is something more here. I especially love it in comedies. I’m reminded of one of my favorite lines from the 1981 movie “Arthur” starring Dudley Moore. Moore, one of the greatest comedic actors of all time, plays a drunken billionaire who will lose all his money if he doesn’t marry a certain wealthy heiress. Ask anybody who has seen it and they will tell you it’s one of the funniest movies of the 80’s, if not of all time. But there’s this one line. Arthur is drunk at dinner with his arranged marriage fiancé and she asks him why he drinks so much and he says “Not everybody who drinks is a poet. Some of us drink because we’re NOT poets.” With that one line you go from laughing at a loveable drunk to really feeling for this extremely sad and lonely person.
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
Murray: I am really excited about my new music and comedy game show called “For What It’s Worth…” it started out as something to keep me occupied during the pandemic to one of my favorite projects I have ever worked on. The contestants are mostly comedians, but I have actors, musicians and writers on as well. I write fun trivia questions and music related games for the contestants to play. Again, I am very lucky to be friends with some of the funniest and most talented people out there. They all show up and bring their A game. I’ll be honest this show is really good, but the contestants I have on make it great.
From Murray’s Youtube:
with Greg Behrendt, Danielle Koenig & Paul Gilmartin
Go subscribe to podcast that feature Murray as I have throughout the years such as Road Stories and listen to comedians/writers tell stories from ummm…the road and travelling and it’s funny. Listen!
One of my favorite podcasts for several years has been Rock Solid hosted by Pat Francis and featuring musical guests and comedians. It is a quick spin of songs usually for a particular topic or musician. Throughout the years Pat has had co-hosts such as Murray, Mike Siegel of Travel Tales, April Richardson, Christy Stratton-Mann, Kyle Dodson, Jimmy Pardo, Mike Schmidt (not that Mike Schmidt…the 40 year old Boy for 40 straight years), David Gutierrez and many more.
So if you enjoy lists of songs by a theme with some great picks (usually Murray, Mike, April, guests) and some pretty good picks like the Cars (Christy), and usually something like Mike & the Mechanics, Def Leppard or whatever (Pat) maybe you love nu-metal (Kyle) this podcast is hilarious. In honor of this show here is a list below.
So here are my top 50 on my phone right now “Songs That Inspire a Sad/Anxious Poet to Write” No particular order, and oddly some are instrumental.
- Bruce Springsteen : The River
- Leonard Cohen : It Seems So Long Ago, Nancy
- Bob Dylan: To Ramona
- Simon & Garfunkel: The Sound of Silence
- Philip Glass: Mad Rush
- Harold Budd: The Room of Ancillary Dreams
- Prince: The Beautiful Ones
- Tupac Shakur: Changes
- Nicole Atkins: A Dream Without Pain
- Marissa Nadler: Said Goodbye to that Car
- Gene Clark: Echoes
- Townes Van Zandt: For the Sake of the Song
- Tom Waits: Martha
- Tom Waits: Ol’ 55
- The National: Pink Rabbits
- Brian Eno: The Big Ship
- Brandi Carlile: The Story
- Patti Smith: Kimberley
- Amanda Shires: Bulletproof
- The Band: Whispering Pines
- Velvet Underground: Candy Says
- Big Star: Thirteen
- Elliott Smith: Christian Brothers
- Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
- Leonard Cohen: Famous Blue Raincoat
- Angel Olsen: Windows
- Fleetwood Mac: Rhiannon
- Pink Floyd: A Pillow of Winds
- Joni Mitchell: Black Crow
- Neil Young: The Needle and the Damage Done
- Buffalo Springfield: Expecting to Fly
- Amigo the Devil: Cocaine and Abel
- Big Thief: Not
- Bert Jansch: Needle of Death
- Chris Cornell: Seasons
- Alice In Chains: Heaven Beside You
- Pearl Jam: The End
- The Beatles: Across the Universe
- John Lennon: Imagine
- Marvin Gaye: Piece of Clay
- Belle and Sebastian: Seeing Other People
- Tim Buckley: Song to the Siren
- Wilco: Kamera
- Bauhaus: All We Ever Wanted was Everything
- Leon Bridges: Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand
- Valerie June: Stay
- Bobbie Gentry: I Wouldn’t Be Surprised
- Broken Social Scene: Cause=Time
- Chris Bell: I Am the Cosmos
- Jimi Hendrix Experience: Castles Made of Sand (there are thousands more but a top 50 is better to read than a top 1000)