I asked Myq Kaplan if he could tell me the smartest thing he'd done for his career.
"The smartest thing I ever did," Myq said, "was answer this question humbly."
I'd argue that the smartest thing he ever did was long before he became a comedian - to channel the teasing that many intelligent kids receive into a whip-smart and bankable sense of humor.
Kaplan has gone from making his TV debut on Live at Gotham to sets on The Tonight Show, The Late Late Show, and Comedy Central Presents to almost winning Last Comic Standing in under three years.
"Blowing up quickly comes as the result of many years of not blowing up quickly," Kaplan said of his overnight success that was nine years in the making. "Put yourself out there as much as possible to create the right-place-right-time phenomenon that is more statistically likely to occur the more places you are, and the more time you spend there."
Kaplan's professional right-place-right-time journey started in Boston in 2002, and continues today in New York. While Kaplan can kill in a coffee shop, he's equally as comfortable in a club full of tourists. Both cities have a big nerd-comedy scene, but Kaplan can play both the alternative rooms and the mainstream clubs.
"I prefer dork," Kaplan said, in response to the eternal nerd-dork debate. "Even though the definition of nerd is probably "someone who deliberates over what differentiates a nerd and a dork."
Nerd vs Dork aside, there are two main types of smart comedy. The first is a show like "Frasier," where the audience has to be smart to get many of the jokes. The second is a show like "The Colbert Report" where anyone of average intelligence gets the jokes, but the smarter the audience is, the funnier the show gets.
Kaplan has developed squarely into that second category. His jokes are intelligent, yet accessible. And there's enough funny in his act that you'll still be laughing even if you miss a few of his quicker tags. And there are plenty.
This is a guy who helped me write the best tag I had during a set on the Late Late Show even before he had been on TV himself. This is a guy who is getting such a rabid fan following that his CD ("Vegan Mind Meld") sells an increasing number of copies each month it's out. This is a guy who, when he was still banging around Boston in 2006, impressed me so much on a comedy message board that I hired him a few weeks later.
His intelligence, his relevance, and his patience were all fueled by the same thing many of us faced as children: other people's ignorance.
"I am pretty happy," Kaplan said, when asked about the bullying he received as a kid. "If I had a time machine that could go back and make my childhood different without destroying the universe or creating parallel dimensions or creating any negative effects whatsoever (the most boring time machine movie in history, or in future), I don't know that I would."
I hope not. Because then we'd be left with one less comedian smart enough to tell a good time travel joke.