You're from Boston originally, so what prompted the move to New York? I actually moved to Los Angeles first because I would get sitcom-development deals every year, until reality TV made those deals far less abundant. I decided I wanted to be much better at stand-up and in this city, you can get the reps necessary to improve. I often do 18 shows a week here—that was a strong month in L.A.! Boston has a great undergraduate program in comedy, but New York comedy is where you earn your Ph.D.
What's the biggest difference between the comedy scenes in both cities? Well, there’s an elite group of 30-year veterans in Boston who can hold their own with anyone, but I was on a Tuesday night show at the Comedy Cellar last year that had Rock, Chappelle, Louis, Ray Romano and Dice on it. A Tuesday!
What's the most important thing you've learned to get by in New York? You can get a free muffin at Whole Foods if you grab it on your way out after you've paid for your coffee. (It's stealing, but so is their price for goji berries.)
You do an amazing bit about having a meltdown in Trader Joe's. Do you think NYC is the city of the acceptable public breakdown? I see madness in my periphery at all times, so when I see someone swerve into that lane, I understand. I always feel like I'm a couple of 6 train delays from walking the city strumming a stringless ukulele.
You've been on pretty much every late-night show going, but do you have a favorite, or a standout moment? I've been on every network late-night show. As a child, my idol was the late David Brenner. When Letterman had heart surgery in 2000, David hosted and chose me to be the comedian. It was like a fantasy, just surreal. By the way, I killed—hard.
You're a former gym teacher, which isn't an occupation traditionally known for its sense of humor. Did your students find you funny? Actually, I was the building sub, so I filled in for many teachers and gym was one of them. Some gym teachers I had could be arrogant and also dragged out the pronunciation of Jewish last names, so perhaps the audience's low expectations worked in my favor, because I could get good laughs during volleyball scrimmages.
Is a classroom a good captive audience for trying out jokes? God, yes! I ran all my routines past the kids and they were a really good indication of whether something would work. They were really hip high-school kids. They still come to my show, though they bring their wives, which makes me feel bad about my choices.
You were also an accountant. Are you a comedian who's able to do their own taxes? Because that would technically make you rarer than Bigfoot. I could do my taxes up until I incorporated—now I have someone for that. But my shit is organized.
A longtime comic who has made the rounds on late-night talk shows, Gulman has a buoyant persona that's full of fun and smart material about everyday things from grapes to consumer products. Here Gulman tapes a new one-hour special.