A successful career in stand-up comedy requires focus and discipline, and Eric Hollerbach has both.
His three most recent specials are a unique blend of sketch comedy, stand-up, music, and even some improv. Instead of following the usual stand-up format of choosing one venue in which one films themselves doing their best material, Hollerbach chose to edit together a journey through the U.S. in which he delivers his funniest jokes to over 50+ crowds.
Amazon Prime Video Direct (a platform for indie filmmakers) wouldn’t take these specials because they were reportedly “WAY too offensive,” but I sure will:
I watched every one. I wasn’t offended. But I will be careful not to give away too much – not only because jokes should never be spoiled, but because editorially, if I were to fully recount the topics contained within Hollerbach’s comedy, I would need to use a f***load of asterisks.
Hollerbach’s journey began in a little town called Long Valley, New Jersey. He was born on Halloween in 1985. This is his story.
When did you develop your passion for comedy?
There was lots of yelling in the house growing up, and I remember the first time I learned comedy is very powerful.
My sister and I were not allowed to curse, but my mom cursed all the time. So one night at the kitchen table – in front of God and everybody – my sister said, “Hey Mom, I’ve got a good impression of you!” and she cursed like a sailor.
My parents died laughing, and my mouth dropped. Like, what? I didn’t know that was possible.
My sister broke the rules, but there was no consequence. Why? Because she got ’em. She cracked ’em.
That happened when I was nine, and I’ve been obsessed with comedy ever since. I realized then that there was something metaphysical and powerful about being able to crack someone like that.
‘I didn’t want to be disruptive’
In school, I remember those kids who would be disruptive in class, and kind of sh*tty and disrespectful with the teacher. I never did that. I would raise my hand to say something f*cked up – I’d wait my turn.
I didn’t want to be disruptive, because I noticed the teacher would get real frustrated with those class clowns. But I’d raise my hand when we were talking about, you know, fish or something in Science class. I’d raise my hand and say, “So, the guy fish just j*rks off on the eggs?” And the teacher would crack up!
It was a question that was technically correct, but I wanted the laugh. I was obsessed with the laugh. I knew it was powerful.
In about 7th and 8th grade, my friend Jeff Reeves and I would perform sketch comedy during our 30-minute recess. We called it the “Eric and Jeff Show,” and it would take place in one of the school’s classrooms.
The audience would be packed! There would normally be around 60 students there. We also started filming sketches at my house, and we’d edit it all on a VHS tape.
I sent one of these tapes to “Saturday Night Live” when I was 16 years old, around 2002. And I was very deceptive with the cover letter. I was a good con artist. I knew I had to wait my turn in Science class to make a d*ck joke, and I knew I had to sneak my way through certain gatekeepers to get on something as big as “SNL.”
Adam McKay was the head writer at the time, so I wrote a letter to “SNL” basically saying that I know Adam McKay like we’re best friends. Like, “Guys, don’t even worry about it, I was at Adam’s Bar Mitzvah.”
So, this person called the house about a month later, and I believe she was, like, four years older than me. Some NYU intern at “SNL.” She gave me a number to call back on our family’s voicemail machine.
I took down the number, and listened to the voicemail 100s of times before I called them back. First question they had: “So, how do you know Adam McKay again?”
And then I was like, “Humana humana humana humana humana humana humana humana humana.”
I started acting stupid and backpedaling from my story. I wasn’t ready to answer these direct questions from this savvy NYU intern!
And they were like, “Oh, so you’re just some stupid kid?”
And I was like “Yeah, but the sketches are funny!”
I cannot confirm nor deny if they watched that video tape.
How did you launch your stand-up career?
I went to New School University in New York as an undergraduate. I started training at the Upright Citizens Brigade.
I had previously done stand-up when I was about 16 – maybe a couple-dozen times in NYC. Back in the day, the Comedy Cellar had “Bringer Shows.” If I stuffed four friends in my mom’s van, I could do five minutes at the Cellar.
Around May 2008 I graduated and was part of an official UCB team. That was a great experience. But after I graduated, the girlfriend I was living with moved to Los Angeles. I chased her out there and started working on “Shark Tank,” “Amazing Race,” and some crappy reality shows.
It was a whole lot of industry work. I was pretty much constantly working in improv, stand-up and PA jobs for a while.
I did lots of improv from about 2009-2011. But in 2012, I decided to commit to stand-up, which I did until about 2014. I was working on a show for TNT that was supposed to be lucrative, but I got fired, and then the show got cancelled. That put me in a really bad financial situation.
Eventually, I couldn’t afford the rent in Los Angeles, so I bought an office for $700 a month. I had my own locking door and all. I found a couch on the street and slept on it in that office.
I’d take a shower across the street every morning at L.A. fitness.
When did you decide to create these three unique specials?
One of my friends from New Orleans had a good camera, and I said, how about we do a stand-up special?
My dad sent me $4,500 to film it, and I added about another $11,000. I worked like crazy in L.A. Then, me and my friend drove from Los Angeles to New Orleans to NYC, shooting about 50 shows on the road along the way.
We would drive into Austin, for example, then drive an hour outside of town to get a hotel in the middle of the desert for $40 with breakfast included. We did about two or three shows every single night.
At one point, I moved into my dad’s house in New Jersey because I was pretty much broke. I’m glad I got out of that L.A. office before COVID, though, because you can’t even take showers in gyms now.
Discover more of Hollerbach’s truly hilarious work in stand-up, sketch and improv on his YouTube channel.