Mike Falzone: Dynamic Listening

June 6, 2022

Photo Credit

Andrew Max Levy


Valerie Lopez


Lara Smith

2022 Moontower Just For Laughs Comedy Festival Series

The Moontower Comedy Festival has returned in 2022 under the umbrella of Just For Laughs and blessed us with 10 days of comedy, film, live podcast, and afterparties. Comedy Wham is featuring our favorite conversations from this year's festival. Enjoy!

Since Com­e­dy Wham’s incep­tion, Valerie and I have attend­ed our fair share of fes­ti­vals. I can always tell some­thing spe­cial is afoot when we both start vig­or­ous­ly look­ing for ways to rearrange our sched­ule to catch the same show not just once but mul­ti­ple times. Pre­vi­ous exam­ples include The God­damn Com­e­dy Jam and Stu­art Goldsmith’s Comedian’s Come­di­an Pod­cast. This year, that some­thing spe­cial” came in the form of Mike Falzone’s crowd work show Sur­round­ed.

Already intrigued by the con­cept, we walked in, saw the set­up, and were hooked. As the show’s title sug­gests, the audi­ence sur­rounds the per­former. Crowd work presents enough of a chal­lenge to comics from atop the stage, but when they’re placed on the same lev­el, inti­mate­ly close to their audi­ence, it’s a whole new lev­el of daunt­ing. As an audi­ence mem­ber, there was a thrill in know­ing we were like­ly to be part of the show, and with that lambs for the slaugh­ter” men­tal­i­ty came an unex­pect­ed com­radery and bond amongst the audi­ence mem­bers. Sur­round­ed does for its audi­ence some­thing I’ve only seen in the afore­men­tioned God­damn Com­e­dy Jam; it cre­ates fans and friends (I think our audi­ence formed a kick­ball team).

When I started getting into stand up and falling in love with it, I was like, I never want to stop getting better at this.
Mike Falzone

Much in the same way that we ambushed Stu­art Gold­smith after see­ing his first live Comedian’s Come­di­an record­ing at SXSW years ago, Valerie and I were bolt­ing down 6th Street to lock down cre­ator Mike Fal­zone and find out who is the genius behind Sur­round­ed. For­tu­nate­ly for us, he gra­cious­ly agreed to work an inter­view with us into his already busy Moon­tow­er sched­ule.

Inter­est­ing­ly enough, Fal­zone’s for­ay into per­for­mance began not with com­e­dy, but rather music. He was pri­mar­i­ly a gui­tarist. And while he gar­nered some suc­cess as a musi­cian, he real­ized that the moments in between songs when he would talk to the crowd were becom­ing his favorite part. Fal­zone con­nect­ed more deeply with audi­ences when talk­ing rather than play­ing to them. His crowd work dur­ing those sets thus laid the foun­da­tion to what has become a suc­cess­ful com­e­dy career. Describ­ing his pas­sion for com­e­dy, Fal­zone states, When I start­ed get­ting into stand up and falling in love with it, I was like, I nev­er want to stop get­ting bet­ter at this. There’s no like, plateau.” Rev­el­ing in the fact that in com­e­dy you’re real­ly only com­pet­ing with your­self, Fal­zone says, You could always be bet­ter than your last show.”

Fal­zone and his then girl­friend and now wife Zoja moved to Los Ange­les so that he could pur­sue his career ful­ly. Ear­ly adopters of pod­cast­ing, they start­ed their own show Wel­come to the Pod­cast, now called Wel­come to Our Pod­cast, which chron­i­cled the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of mov­ing across the coun­try from Con­necti­cut to chase their dreams. After a slump of bad open mics, Fal­zone had slowed down in his pur­suits, but his wife keen­ly remind­ed him that they didn’t move 3000 miles away from their old life for him to stop now. His wife’s words were just the moti­va­tion that he need­ed to kick things into overdrive. 

Fal­zone began hit­ting the scene hard and even­tu­al­ly start­ed a show­case called Friends & Friends. It was the pre­de­ces­sor to Sur­round­ed, which was born as Fal­zone walked into The Lab at the Hol­ly­wood improv and he saw the seat­ing arranged in the round. The idea for his new crowd work show came to life that day. 

I always thought that especially after the pandemic, where we're like, kind of isolated from each other, that people would really appreciate a show where it's unique to them, that’s never gonna happen again.
Mike Falzone

The inti­ma­cy of Falzone’s show is not lost on him and, truth be told, that might be just what we need right now, hav­ing been through COVID and the lone­li­ness that coin­cid­ed. Fal­zone says, I always thought that espe­cial­ly after the pan­dem­ic, where we’re, like, kind of iso­lat­ed from each oth­er, that peo­ple would real­ly appre­ci­ate a show where it’s unique to them, that’s nev­er gonna hap­pen again.” That’s where the some­thing spe­cial” I referred to before real­ly comes into play. As for the key to a suc­cess­ful set at Sur­round­ed, Fal­zone sug­gests, It’s way more of an exer­cise in lis­ten­ing than it is try­ing to be quick.” The show offers comics a way to hone that chal­leng­ing but worth­while skill. 

Fal­zone seems to have a way of con­nect­ing to peo­ple, enter­tain­ing them, and mak­ing them super fans. So many of his col­leagues raved about him when they found out we were inter­view­ing him. Fal­zone actu­al­ly has anoth­er pod­cast, Dynam­ic Ban­ter, with his friend Steve Zaragoza. Dynam­ic Ban­ter is like being a fly on the wall of two dudes just talk­ing about what­ev­er comes into their minds and makes them laugh. It’s an absolute blast of a lis­ten. It also has a very ded­i­cat­ed fan base, as evi­denced by For­est, a lis­ten­er that car­ried a pod­cast poster around Moon­tow­er this year just to get it auto­graphed by Falzone. 

HIs abil­i­ty to con­nect with fans both live and via pod­cast is the thing that makes you root so hard for Mike Fal­zone — the thing that makes you run down a crowd­ed 6th Street to get an inter­view or car­ry a poster to shows. Fal­zone cre­ates tru­ly mem­o­rable expe­ri­ences for his fans and his guest comics. 

Sur­round­ed was record­ed this year dur­ing Moon­tow­er Just for Laughs Fes­ti­val and weeks lat­er went to Net­flix is a Joke Fes­ti­val. The hope is that the buzz will get it picked up as a spe­cial for stream­ing plat­forms. In a time when peo­ple could use laughs more than ever, I sure hope it does.

Fol­low Mike

Mike can be seen and heard:

  • Debut Spe­cial: You Got Toes (Tubi)
  • Pod­casts (avail­able on Youtube and your favorite pod­cast player)
    • Dynam­ic Ban­ter (stay tuned for big news about DB becom­ing more than just a podcast!)
    • Wel­come to Our Podcast
  • Host­ed Shows — Sur­round­ed every first Fri­day at Hol­ly­wood Improv (7:00pm and 9:45pm)
  • Video Series
    • Since 2006, Mike has been cre­at­ing videos on Youtube — head there to see them all
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Mike Falzone