When he was young and impressionable, Mike Kaplan thought it was cool that Prince legally changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. In order to distinguish himself from other comedians (and actors, and musicians, and plumbers) named Mike Kaplan, he took the bold step of changing the spelling of his first name to Myq.
Of course, Prince eventually went back to calling himself Prince. Myq Kaplan, who doesn't have the luxury of a ridiculously famous face (not yet, anyway) had already released two CDs featuring the novel name. For better or worse, he's stuck with it. He claims to like it — people, he says, never really mistake him for anybody else.
The comedian formerly known as Mike performs Saturday (Aug. 10) at the Wormhole, with fellow name-changer Zach Sherwin (he used to be a comic rapper known as MC Mr. Napkins).
As for Magic Myq, he's a 34-year-old New Jersey native who has, among other standup stats, appeared on all the late-night shows, pulled in loads of fans as a finalist on Last Comic Standing, and on his own Comedy Central special. He has a podcast called Hang Out With Me on the Keith and the Girl Network.
He is a vegan, an atheist, a math nerd and a Master of Linguistics (from Boston University, where he was voted "Funniest Student" in 2005).
Couple that verbal dexterity with a deadpan delivery and a skewed eye for the abnormalities of life on earth, and ... hey, don't take our word for it:
Is that character we see on the stage you, or someone you made up for performance?
Myq Kaplan: I don't want to say that it's all me, but it's certainly much closer to me than a character. I don't want to speak for Lewis Black, but somebody told me he said this, so I'll say that he said it: Let's say your personality, who you are, is a pie chart, and there's these different slices of it. Your comedic persona is one slice, or two, and those are the ones that you choose to amp up. Like Lewis Black doesn't go around life yelling all the time – he's saying things that he believes, just louder than he would normally in conversation.
You have this bit about time travel, Back to the Future and Groundhog Day — I saw you do it on Conan. Does that sort of thing come naturally to you, or do you have to sit there and think about how to say funny stuff?
Myq Kaplan: That's sort of like the question "Is it nature or nurture?" And it's both, certainly. I didn't sit down and, one day, write the best five minutes all at once. The part about Hitler and time travel started as one kernel, one idea I had on my podcast. I thought "That's an interesting thing that I've never thought-slash-expressed that way before." Over the course of the next several months, doing it onstage and thinking about it offstage, it grew larger and I started packing more things on it. Eventually it became a snowball that rolled down the hill and became this avalanche... I'm losing this metaphor now.
With the finished product of a comedy set, or a headlining show, I'm saying things that I honed and polished over the course of weeks and months. Years. If you talked to me in real life, you might get some components of that. I watched The Purge in June, and I had a thought about a flaw in that movie. That was a thing I thought immediately. Our brains are always working. As long as we're alive.
What's the worst part of life on the road?
Myq Kaplan: I don't think about the worst things that much. I am very fortunate that I was born at this time in America, where a small person can thrive and doesn't have to go to battle, like in the Middle Ages. Raised by two loving parents in a house where I was encouraged and supported. Had a good education, had shelter, had food. Had a college education. I had the chance to figure out what I wanted to do, and got lucky enough to be a comedian — making my living only thinking things and saying them. So, what's the worst part about being on the road? Aw, sometimes I gotta show up early to the airport!
I thought you were going to say "The vegan food is lousy."
Myq Kaplan: I'm not a big complainer. These days, there is vegan food everywhere. Everywhere has a supermarket with fruits and vegetables. There's Chinese food everywhere, there's Thai and other Asian. Evan fast food — there's Subway and Chipotle. And most of the towns that I go to these days, if it's a college town, they frequently have specifically vegetarian restaurants. When I go other places, food is functional. I put it in my mouth, and I keep living. And I have a good time.