BY TONY CARO Philly homeboy Joe DeRosa’s dark brand of comedy isn’t for the faint hearted — it’s for the people who realize that laughter is the only rational response to an absurd universe where everything born will one day die. Born and raised in Collegeville, DeRosa got his start on the Philly stand-up circuit. In the mid-aughts he moved to New York where he eventually hooked up with Bill Burr for a show called Uninformed on Sirius Satellite Radio show, which he parlayed into regular appearances on The Opie & Anthony Show. He’s released six stand-up comedy albums, and has appeared on Louie, Inside Amy Schumer, Crashing, and Better Call Saul. His most recent comedy special, You Let Me Down, premiered on Netflix in 2017. When he’s not making comedy, he’s making music and podcasting. Most notable amongst various projects and collaborations is two EPs on Bandcamp of completely serious/totally not funny electro-pop under the Demon Riot. In advance of his two-night run at Punch Line Philly on Friday and Saturday, we got him on the horn. DISCUSSED: Depression, auctions, Cypress Hill, why he loves Philly, demon riots, how funny Bob Saget is, elephants on acid, and how you get away with playing the sleazy drug-dealing vet Dr. Caldera on Better Call Saul without ever have seen, to this day, Breaking Bad.
PHAWKER: You grew up in Collegeville, and began performing regularly at the Laff House but left town for New York in the early aughts. Curious what if anything you miss about Philly?
JOE DEROSA: I miss all of it. I really love Philadelphia as a city. I love the people. It’s got a very blue-collar sensibility there, and at the same time it’s a very progressive place, and I just love it. It was a great place to start doing comedy. It’s a great place to go back to do comedy, and if it was located a little closer to my work obligations, I would live there.
PHAWKER: Your first stand up album, released in 2001, was called The Depression Auction. That’s an odd title for a comedy album, can you explain that for the benefit readers that may not have heard it, present company included.
JOE DEROSA: It’s named after a bit on the album. If you know anything about my comedy, it’s all very dark, and a lot of it is based in the sort of darker aspects of life, so I like to joke about depression. I like to joke about loneliness. I like to joke about the pitfalls in life. I don’t think it’s a ton of fun to joke about the upswings, because they’re upswings, and happy isn’t really that funny, so the album is based on a bit about being depressed, and saying that you wish you could auction off your depression to people. My friend, Anne Harris, at Comedy Central said I should call the album, The Depression Auction.
PHAWKER: You play the shady, drug-dealing veterinarian, Dr. Caldera, on Better Call Saul. How did you wind up landing that role? Did you know the people making that show prior to landing the role, or was it just something you auditioned for and wound up landing? It seems like a fun show to work on. Do you have any amusing anecdotes about working on the show that you can share?
JOE DEROSA: I auditioned for the show, and people knew the show was being made. It was public knowledge at that point, but nobody knew what the show was going to be about. Everything was really under wraps at that point.
JOE DEROSA: I had never watched Breaking Bad.
PHAWKER: Still to this day?
JOE DEROSA: Yes, yeah, no, I hear it’s great, but I had never seen it. Not because I didn’t want to see it. It was just one of those shows that by the time I was able to sit down and potentially start watching it, I was so far behind that it was too overwhelming, so I hadn’t watched, and when I got this part, I was thrilled, because I knew that it would be an awesome show and a quality show, but I also knew that it took place prior to the events of Breaking Bad, so then knew that I really didn’t need to go back and watch it. I was like, my character wouldn’t know about any of this stuff anyway, and I always think it’s a better approach to something I’m involved in to not be…The less I know a lot of the time the better, because the more you know the more you can get excited, and then the more you start to pressure on yourself in all these things, and I always find it’s better to know a little bit less. In the interest of not psyching myself out, I didn’t go back and watch Breaking Bad.
PHAWKER: So the Demon Riot EPs are, like, really good — and I know you have spoofed sex rap under the name Deep — but this doesn’t sound like jokey comedy record unless there is something subtle I am missing.
JOE DEROSA: No, no, the Demon Riot stuff is not meant to be funny. I was a musician before I did anything else, so that was kind of the course I was on initially, and then when I got into comedy, I tried a little bit of comedy music with Deep, but I still kept writing music and creating and stuff, and just decided I wanted to put some of the stuff out there that worked well and came together pretty well, and I did, and that was it.
PHAWKER: Was the last album or song you heard that really blew you away?
PHAWKER: On a related note, what was the last joke you heard that made you laugh out loud?
JOE DEROSA: I saw Bog Saget preform the other night, and it was really funny.
JOE DEROSA: Yeah, I loved it. It was great
PHAWKER: I remember him from Full House, right? That was him?
JOE DEROSA: Yeah, he’s really funny standup.