Less than two weeks ago, Khalid Rahmaan took the stage of Conan and made his late night television debut. We got a chance to catch up with him about his experiences leading up to, during, and after this exciting milestone!
Congratulations on making your late night debut on Conan! Your performance was nothing short of STELLAR. Before we dig into anything- how do you feel about the entire experience at this point?
Oh wow, thanks! It’s been the best experience I’ve had in comedy so far. People have been really supportive. I didn’t realize how many people I have pulling for me. The people at Conan couldn’t have been better. From the folks backstage to the producer to the tech guys. I’m still kinda floating, but I’m also mindful that this is basically an invitation to do a lot more work. Thankfully, I haven’t had any long lost cousins reach out for money, cause I still don’t have any.
How did you come across this amazing opportunity?
It’s the strangest thing. Over the last year and a half, I did really well on three spots at this really great bar show here in the city. One of the producers of the show ended up becoming the assistant booker at a comedy club. She remembered me doing well on her show, so she reached out to ask me for a tape of my standup to send to her boss. Her boss loved it and, turns out, he’s on the panel that selects comics for the TBS Comics to Watch showcase. He recommended me and I got it. The producers of Conan planned on selecting a few standouts from the showcase to do Conan in the weeks afterward.
Wow, a nice mixture of luck and talent! How much time did you have to prepare? How did you prepare?
Leading up to the showcase, I asked everyone I knew for stage time to run my 6 minute set and I got it tight. I tore my knee up pretty bad in a freak accident around showcase selection time, but I rehabbed hard and was able to perform on the showcases in November at the New York Comedy Festival, while using crutches to get to the stage. It was crazy. My showcase sets that night went great and a week later I got the call from Conan’s talent coordinator. I found out about the Comics to Watch opportunity in September, officially was invited to do the showcase in early October, and had one month to get ready. Then, I booked Conan during the third week of November and performed on December 6th.
So, how long have you been doing comedy? Do you think there's a certain amount of years a comic should have under their belt before aspiring to perform on late night?
I’ve been doing standup for five and a half years. I don’t think there’s any formula, other than working hard at the craft, setting goals, writing constantly and getting lucky. I was incredibly fortunate, but the work I put in enabled me to take advantage of the opportunity when it came about.
What was it like when you met Conan?
The first time I met Conan was when we shook hands after my set. I think he’s pretty busy doing stuff before the show. He couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious. He had very specific compliments about the jokes. He was a super nice guy. I’m a fan.
You incorporated a lot of uncomfortable topics into your material. Kudos to you for sticking to your humor, but was there any point at which you were like "Maybe I shouldn't"?
Nah. I’ve always been into dicey topics and I think you can say anything you want on stage, as long as it’s funny. Standup comedy is one of the last places where that’s true, at least I hope it is.
You received both rave reviews and not-so-favorable reviews on a national scale. How do you deal with both and does either affect how you venture forward?
I try not to pay too much attention to it, though, it’s pretty great that people had such strong reactions. That tells me that I’m not doing safe, milk toast comedy. Yuck. That would be the worst. I look up to people like Patrice O’Neal, Dave Chappelle and Sara Silverman, comics who always pushed the boundaries. My people from the New York comedy scene, which is the best comedy scene in the country, seemed to mostly be into it. Good enough for me.
What is your favorite memory/experience leading up to and during your performance?
I loved the two teamsters who were waiting to pull the curtain for me before I went on stage. It was just another Wednesday afternoon for them, which made me even more relaxed than I already was. Dennis Leary was very nice about complimenting my set afterwards, so that meant a lot.
What's a funny or awkward experience that happened while you were there?
The host of the second Comics to Watch showcase forgot to bring back my crutches after my set, so for a brief moment I was stranded up there while we stared at each other awkwardly.
That's hilarious. Is performing on television any different than performing in a comedy club?
It’s different in that the very beginning of most late night (television) sets don’t go great, because the crowd isn’t warmed up the same way they would be at a hot comedy club show, plus they’re stone sober. It’s similar in that it’s still just trying to get a big group of people to laugh.
So you're on Conan, you perform, you finish your set and then you exit the stage... what were the next 5 minutes like?
Conan was super cool and invited me back to do the show again. Dennis Leary pulled me aside backstage and said my set was hysterical and then I thanked lots of folks from Conan’s team backstage. I signed paperwork to get paid, then I took a bunch of pics with my friends and we rolled out. Totally forgot to grab the cue cards that Conan used to introduce me for a souvenir, but luckily they’re gonna mail them to me.
What were some of your immediate thoughts once you exited the stage? How did you feel?
I thought, YES. They liked it! I felt a rush of excitement from coming through in a big spot, but mostly I felt relieved that it went well. Sometimes late night sets don’t go well and it’s painful to watch comics receive insincere compliments when they know that everyone knows they didn’t do well. It’s a point of pride. I was also super psyched that I saw JP the producer beaming out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t let him down or make him look bad for taking a chance on me and that meant a lot.
A Conan performance is an amazing bullet to add to your resume and surely, it's only the beginning. Tell us... what's next for you?
I’m working on the half hour that I’ll submit to Comedy Central and Netflix next Fall, developing tv ideas and launching a podcast about emotional bottoms with four of my favorite comics. It’s called Bottom Boys and you should look out for it.