On Wednesday, April 16, at noon, standup comic Aaron Karo will join us for an online chat. During his freshmen year at the University of Pennsylvania, Karo began sending out monthly e-mails, titled Ruminations, recounting funny stories and anecdotes to a few friends. Word of mouth spread about the e-mails, and by his senior year Karo had amassed more than 11,000 subscribers nationwide. His columns have been compiled and published by Simon & Schuster in two collections, Ruminations of College Life and Ruminations on Twentysomething Life. Currently, his e-mail column has over 50,000 subscribers.
Want to know more about his time in college? We do. Karo was a member of a fraternity at Penn, and we’re betting there are still plenty of untold stories you can wheedle out of him. He’ll also answer questions about touring, performing standup, his dark days working for an investment bank, and perhaps even his puzzling love for soccer.
Karo will performing his standup routine at the 9:30 Club on Friday, April 18. For more information and tickets, click here.
Be sure to check out the show, and don’t forget to submit a question to the chat!
That's all the time Aaron has for us today. Thanks for all the questions!
For the full archives of arts & entertainment chats, click here.
I remember reading Ruminations in college. How did it get started? How did it become so widespread?
It started about three weeks into my freshmen year the University of Pennsylvania. I started writing emails to twenty of my high school buddies about college life. They started forwarding them around, and eventually random people started emailing me and asking me to add them to my list. And I was like, “wait, what list?” So then I started a mailing list, kept writing the emails, and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course I don’t really know who “they” are.
Did your friends ever hate being called out in your columns?
They love it – or at least most of them do. They are always asking me to write about them and sort of get offended when I don’t. The only ones who are sick of it are the people I write about the most – probably my old roommate and some of the Triplets. I think they would prefer I just didn’t think they were so funny at this point.
What career would you go into if this comedy stuff stopped paying bills? Would you fall back on your business degree?
I would not be falling back on anything. I use my Wharton degree more now than I ever did on Wall Street. Anyone can add numbers together on a spreadsheet and get yelled at. I think if I stopped “this comedy stuff” and went back to finance, then I would really be wasting my education.
It seems like going from writing funny emails and books to doing standup could be a hard transition. Was it a natural progression or were you terrible at first at standup comedy or what?
It was a learning experience – and it still is. They are definitely two very different art forms. One benefit of writing Ruminations is that I think it help me develop a pretty unique stand-up style. I don’t really tell jokes. I tell stories. Stories that involve me getting drunk and not getting laid. Which is basically what the column has been about for 10.5 years.
Hey, Karo. I haven't read your emails in a while, so maybe everyone already knows, but have you found yourself a girlfriend? Your friends are getting married one by one, so has that inspired you to want to get settled a bit yourself?
Currently single. My friends getting married one by one has inspired me to do just the opposite. I won’t be going down any time soon.
What do you think of LA? Do you enjoy living there?
“Enjoy” is such a strong word. The weather is amazing. The chicks are super hot. Those are big pluses. But the bars close early (compared to NYC) and you have to drive everywhere. Big minuses. Overall, I tell people that, unless you’re working in the entertainment industry, if you really love nice weather and oceans and shit, move to San Diego or Miami.
Give us some Wall Street horror stories!
Well apparently I may possibly need to fall back on that career so I don’t want to give too much away. I’ve thrown up on a few subway platforms in my day. I think that’s probably an important rule for anyone on Wall Street to learn: if you vomit before even getting to work, you are too hungover to make it through the day.
So you have ruminations on college life, ruminations on twenty-somethings…what's next? Ruminations on babies and diapers?
Whoah, that’s a pretty big leap. How did you get all the way to babies and diapers? I’ve actually been kicking around some ideas for my third book. And there will be no offspring involved whatsoever. Seriously.
College Park, MD
Karo- What was your most memorable moment as a brother in ZBT at UPenn? You should roll to College Park, MD sometime and party w/ the terrapins.
Probably taking my buddy to the emergency room after a formal freshman year because he had just cracked his head open, only to find the rest of my pledge class was already there because another guy had smashed his hand through a window. Fratastic.
What convinced you to leave wall street and make being funny and writing your fulltime job?
A book deal made that decision pretty easy. Plus I really hate waking up early, tucking in my shirt, and shaving regularly.
How do you cope being a college graduate? I graduated two years ago and I still miss college terribly!
I cope by traveling to colleges to perform, hanging out with college kids, and hooking up with college chicks. AKA: denial.
There's that Greek show on ABC Family right now. Just curious, what would Aaron Karo's version of the greek experience be like? More HBO or Showtime material?
To be honest, I kinda like Greek. I was just watching it actually. I don’t think my version would be very TV-friendly – 80 goons from Long Island getting blindingly drunk and trying to take chicks home from the bar against their better judgement.
Any surprises you might have in store for your show on Friday?
Its an all-new set so everything should be a surprise (hopefully). Will there be a musical number or something in the middle? No.
What's a joke or a funny line you wish you could have written or thought of?
GEORGE: Magellan? You like Magellan?
JERRY: Oh, yeah. My favorite explorer. Around the world. Come on.
GEORGE: Who do you like?
GEORGE: I like DeSoto.
JERRY: DeSoto? What did he do?
GEORGE: Discovered the Mississippi.
JERRY: Oh. like they wouldn't have found that anyway.
What are some of the people you look up to? Any stand up comedians you admire?
I’m going to see Ricky Gervais in concert this summer. I think that’s first the stand-up show I’ve bought tickets for in years (you get to see a lot of free stand-up when you’re a comedian). Some of the funniest shit I’ve ever heard is the Ricky Gervais podcast on iTunes. I listen to it at the gym every day and have almost accidentally killed myself more than a few times.
What's the writing process like for your columns? Has it changed at all over the course of the years?
I have a giant spreadsheet with every joke or idea I’ve ever thought of – thousands and thousands of them. When I sit down to write the column I pick a topic and then run through the spreadsheet and pick out the potential ruminations for that topic, as well as random stuff for the second half of the column. Then I go back and write everything out. Then I sleep on it and send it to my sister who proofreads it and writes snarky comments about how half the jokes don’t work. Then I revise it and send it out. Been the same process for as long as I can remember.
Did you ever had to censor or slightly edit some of your columns?
My only rule is that if it will get one of my friends fired, broken up with, or maimed, I don’t include it.
What's touring like for you? Can we expect a Ruminations series on it?
If you go to youtube.com/aaronkaro I actually filmed myself going on the road at the end of last year. Lots of airports, not a lot of sleep, and lots of alcohol. It’s fun but exhausting. For example, before I even get to my show in DC on Friday, I’m first performing in Montreal. You know how annoying it is to fly from LA to Montreal to DC in two days? That’s why the motto of my last tour was “No sleep till liver damage.”