Joe Moses on StarKid, LA, Pandas, and JMOMS
by Kat Miller · Published · Updated
Joe Moses (who plays the Potions Master in the StarKid productions) took some time out of his very busy schedule to chat with us about his upcoming tour: the Joe Moses Showses.
In the interview, Joe talks about the future of JMOMS and describes the new show as “some of the best material we have had so far!”
Transcribed by Jean Bachen, Felicia Grady, Katie Kerekes, Aimee Schechter, and Laura Sheppard
Kat Miller: We're going to talk about Joe Moses One-Man Showses today.
Joe Moses: Awesome.
Kat: Very exciting. The tour is coming up. Tell us a little bit about what you're doing this time around.
Joe: Well, this... I'm actually really excited for the show. I think it's some of the best material we've had so far. And it's a combination of parodies of some of mine and your favorite fandoms. Some ones you've seen before - the characters - it's new sketches, but some characters you've seen before. Some completely new ones that I think are going to be very much enjoyed. And then there's always a big element of improvisation that we do with the "Joe Moses Supposes" questions with the audience. There's a lot of original comedy sketches, sort of just premise sketches. And this show is probably the most musical show we've ever done, and certainly the most interactive. Because not only are we interacting with the "Joe Moses Supposes" thing, but near the end of the show there's a big musical number, and we're actually going to bring up a member of the audience to be a part of that. [laughs]
Kat: Wow, that's crazy.
Laura Reilly: [laughs] Yeah. So it seems like there [is a] pretty high production level that went into this. How many people do you have working behind this? Is it you doing the majority of the production of it, or do you have people assisting you?
Joe: For the most part, it's me, which is why I put out the Tumblr post that was like, "I need your help!" because it really is only possible with the help and support of our fans, particularly in spreading the word about the show, bringing their friends along and stuff like that. But I do have help. My brother Sam is sort of acting as the producer for the show, and he's been helping me out with a lot of the behind-the-scenes production work. Of course, I have my wonderful agent, Pat Brady, who helps me with everything but particularly the Los Angeles-based stuff. And then all along, Curt and Tessa help as much as they can. But I'd say the majority of the workload falls on me. Which is fun, but also stressful. [laughs]
Laura: Now, how have you made these connections with people? Like you said, Tessa Netting, and I know you've had Grace Helbig in the past, and I see you have Jackie Emerson coming in. How do these people become involved in your projects?
Joe: Oh, it's crazy. It's from all over different places. Tessa was introduced to me by Pat Brady because she was a new client with the agency right around the time I was. Curt, I met through Darren and the Glee connection. And Jackie I met through LeakyCon, through Melissa Anelli at LeakyCon just bringing people together. And that's actually how I met Evanna Lynch as well, was through LeakyCon. So it's just... and it's all different things. You never really know how you're going to meet somebody. I ended up meeting Grace Helbig through the People's Improv Theater, where we were both doing shows at the same time. So from all over, really. It comes from all different sources. But sort of the beauty of this modern age of Internet and connectivity is that you are able to connect with them, and then you can sort of look each other up and go, "Oh cool, I like what you do," and they go, "That's cool, I like what you do too." [laughs] And then you just work together.
Laura: That's really awesome. So you currently have plans for New York, Massachusetts, Chicago, Ann Arbor, and LA. Are there plans to extend to other locations?
Joe: Absolutely. Yeah, we're working right now on going to Texas. Texas would be great because it's Curt's hometown, Dallas, my hometown, Houston... I'm sort of a hybrid between Michigan and Texas, and it's where I grew up. So my hometown of Houston, and then Austin is of course the University of Texas, one of the coolest art towns in the United States. So if we could do three dates... right now I have Austin listed as the one that we're focusing on the most, and that's definitely true. But if we get down to Texas and we have the time, it'd be great to come to the other ones as well. And then of course Orlando is on the docket, San Francisco is easy because our cast is Los Angeles based. And then the big jump would be across the pond, see if we can make it over there and do some shows. It would be a dream come true for me.
Kat: I'm sure that they would love to see you as well. So...
Joe: I would love to see them. I've never performed overseas, and I'm so excited [about] that possibility. Especially because it's a pretty untapped market, so to speak. We've haven't done... I've never performed over there. I've never actually officially been in London for an event. I've only gone for fun. So that would be super cool. Paris as well. And back to Germany for RingCon, which we did last year and was amazing.
Laura: So how does doing the Joe Moses One-Man Showses compare to performing at places... you've been to LeakyCon, Infinitus... I think you were at Ascendio?
Laura: Yeah. So how does... I know you have a Joe Moses One-Man Showses coming up in Portland. So how does performing for those crowds differ?
Joe: Oh, very much so. Yes. It's also like... these conventions are fan conventions. That's sort of the premise of them. So I really stick more to the fan-related material for these conventions, more parodies. And stuff that maybe people have heard about or seen online, but they've never gotten to see live. And also, the cast changes so much because there are so many different people that are already at the convention where it's pretty easy just to say, "Hey, can you take an hour and do a show while you're at the convention?" And they all go, "Sure!" which is awesome, but it also is very limited rehearsal time...
[Joe and Laura laugh]
Joe: ...because we only get to the convention... and it's so busy. So many things going on at once. So it...
Laura: Which is why I can imagine A Very Potter Senior Year was particularly a feat since you guys all...
Joe: That was insane! Especially since I did a show the day before on my own... well, with a lot of the cast from A Very Potter Senior Year. [laughs] So everyone was pulling double and triple duty, so it's an insane time. I love these conventions because they're like working vacations. I get to go to a convention, I get to travel somewhere I might not have gone otherwise, I get to hang out with my friends, which is amazing, and I get to work, which I love working. Which I guess is strange but I've got an awesome job, so...
Kat: I love my job too, so I understand.
Kat: I do.
Joe: But it is [a] crazy time crunch. But then I feel like when... [laughs] this might be wrong because I've never actually just attended a con as an attendee, but I feel like con attendees go there, they have a whirlwind time, and by the end of it, although it's "a vacation," they're exhausted because they've been doing so much stuff. And it's the same for me. I go there, and it's like a vacation because I get to go to Orlando, Florida, or Portland[, Oregon,] or Germany or something, and it is cool, but then by the end, I'm like, "I've been out of town on working vacation, but I'm beat. I could sleep for days."
Laura: Yeah. [laughs] So speaking of A Very Potter Senior Year, with that wrapping up... I mean, you're famous for... well, original fame for the Potions Master performance, now with Senior Year wrapping, is the Potions Master... do you want to start phasing that out? Do you want to do other stuff, or will we still see you don the wig at cons and stuff?
Joe: Well, definitely at cons. I don the wig because the people that are there know that character, and it's a good place to break that character out because he's familiar yet unexpected, it's a lot of improvisation, so it works well with time constraints, and it's just fun. So cons are still a great time to use the Potions Master. He will live on. I've shot half of [The] Potion Master's Corner Season 2 already, and I'm looking...
Laura: Oh, fantastic! [laughs]
Joe: So that is a thing. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but you know how life goes sometimes. [laughs] Stuff gets in the way. But in the show itself, in the Joe Moses Showses, it's not really intentional, but just sort of, as we've moved along, there'[re] more and more things I want to include. So the Potions Master will certainly be there, but he's not as much of a part of it as he was at the beginning, whereas at the beginning, he was, like, half the show.
Joe: So it's not so much of that anymore.
Laura: So you had done an interview with the New York Times, and it mentioned that you were a bartender in your, quote, "real life" and that you didn't have... that your fame was very online based. Since you're doing these live Joe Moses One-Man Showses, do you feel that fame shifting? Are you getting recognized more in person since moving past online?
Joe: No, it's still pretty contextual. If I'm in an area that's Harry Potter, Who fandom-related, stuff like that, then it's more likely. Or definitely anything StarKid or Glee-related, it's more likely in that regard. So it hasn't really changed very much in terms of that. But the positive side is, I was working triple-duty when I was bartending and creating a show and taking classes and trying to do all that. And I managed to focus enough energy into the performance aspect, and a couple of good acting jobs came along that I was able to book that I've been able to transition away from bartending, which is awesome.
Joe: Sort of an actor's dream, right? [laughs] Where you don't have to wear your black shirt to work.
Joe: So that's pretty awesome. So that's good, and that's for now. If you've spoken to many people in this business, you know it's big ups and big downs. So I'm taking it one day at a time in that regard.
Kat: This is a token interview question, but where would you like your career to go? Where would you like to be in five years? What's your goal?
Joe: It's to continue to work with my friends on the material that I create, but also expand and play with other people and their material. So if I had to pinpoint one person where I was like, "That's the kind of career I like," well, there'[re] a couple of examples. One good example is Hugh Laurie, from A Bit of Fry and Laurie, where he and Stephen Fry had an awesome sketch comedy show that got turned into a TV show early in their careers. And then from there, they both went on to work tremendously in other stuff while still maintaining a sort of active, individual creative life. So that's great. Or somebody like Simon Pegg, who started out working with his friends on Spaced in English television, and then his movie, Shaun of the Dead, was such a big success that it sort of allowed him to continue creating his own material but also working on Star Trek, Mission Impossible, stuff like that. So my goal is basically to continue doing the things that I love, and still having that creative outlet but just on a much larger scale. Just taking what we have and... I really think if more people hear about it and see it, I think they'll enjoy it. I think that's the one goal I really have in the year or so going forward, is just to get it out there. I've spent the past two years working on it and refining my skills, and I'm ready to share what we have. [laughs]
Laura: Do you still consider yourself to be an active member of StarKid, like your involvement with Twisted, or are you focusing more on personal stuff like JMOMS?
Joe: Well, I definitely still consider myself a StarKid. I don't think that's something that'll ever go away for me, just because they are such close friends, and it is where it all began. So as long as there's a StarKid, I will be one. And if for whatever reason it doesn't exist anymore, I'll still call myself a StarKid because that's where we all started. But stuff I'm doing now, like working on the Twisted musical, is awesome because it's all my friends, and we get to work together, and it's a lot of fun. Just by nature of location and vocation, I tend to focus more on my own projects. I live in Los Angeles and I'm trying to make these shows happen, so it just takes the most of my time. And as you know, StarKid projects, they're not happening all the time. They sort of happen specifically for a month or so, and then pretty much the actors' work is done.
Laura: So are you able to tell us... I know a lot of the details surrounding Twisted are pretty under lock. Are you able to tell us anything more about how that production is going?
Joe: Probably nothing you haven't heard before.
Laura: [laughs] I figured.
Joe: But I will say that I've gotten to see the rehearsals, and I love it. I think it's so funny. It had me... because it's great to me... I've worked on a lot of StarKid shows where I'm involved in the process from day one, which is awesome. But then it sort of evolves and you're working on it, and you forget how funny it is until you put it in front of an audience. And this is one where I've come in cold and gotten - I read the script, but I haven't seen it acted out - to see the musical numbers and the jokes and stuff live in rehearsal with fresh eyes. And it really had me laughing, so I'm excited [about] it.
Kat: Now, I heard that there were some plans. You were trying to get down to Australia with JMOMS. How is that going?
Joe: That's a... there'[re] a couple of steps we've got to take before we go there. [laughs]
Kat: What can fans do to help?
Joe: People have suggested venues and things like that. One of the big things that made me come to Boston so readily was the Boston StarKids put together a petition - an online petition - to see me come to Boston, and it had like 300 signatures in a week, and I was like, "Well, if there'[re] 300 people [who] want to see me in that short amount of time, I can get there." So that put Boston near the top of my list. So just knowing that fans are there, sometimes good. Sometimes you have to be able to point to something. Online can be very tricky because you're not sure if it's 10,000 people who are pretty interested or if it's like four people who are very vocal.
Joe: So it's really hard to gauge. [laughs] But also, just going into any foreign country is difficult for a performer without the right producer. So anyone who's sort of a producer in Australia or somebody who runs a convention in Australia would be helpful in getting in touch with them, attempt to actually make it happen. Because I try to do most things myself, but it just takes a lot more legwork in the beginning.
Laura: Are there any other personal projects that you have on the horizon, or are you just looking to build up JMOMS?
Joe: Oh, I can't really talk about them all yet.
Laura: [laughs] Okay.
Joe: But JMOMS is a big one. Getting this tour together and seeing how many places we can go before the year is over is a big goal of mine. And just getting it out there to people. We have plans to livestream one of our performances in LA. I think that would be a big way to get the show out to people who wouldn't otherwise be able to see it. At the beginning of July, Ann Arbor T-Shirt and I are partnering together to release [not only] a whole new run of merchandise but also a free version of the show I did in Los Angeles back in March. Just to get it out there. Just to put it online.
Laura: That's great.
Joe: So that would be... yeah, that's the stuff I'm all looking forward to. Basically, my goal in the next couple of years is [to] continue expanding this project and whatever project it may lead to. You never know what's going to come up. The Star Trek thing was also something that just sort of came up through my agency, and I was lucky enough to get the part. So stuff like that happens from time to time, and that feels great. But really just getting the word out there about this and hopefully accessing a bunch of people [who] might not otherwise know about this show or might not even know about StarKid and help them spread the word.
Kat: Speaking of the people [who] might not know about this, I've seen some photos of you in a panda hat.
Laura: It seems to be the symbol. [laughs]
Kat: Yeah. What's the deal with the hat?
Joe: What's the deal with that? It started [at] a very young age. There'[re] some pictures of me on my Instagram and on the back of the JMOMS DVD of me in a homemade panda bear suit when I'm like four years old.
[Kat and Laura laugh]
Joe: And that was my mom's doing. She created the whole costume, sewed it. So I've always loved panda bears. I took my allowance and donated it to the WWF - which is World Wildlife Fund, not the wrestling organization.
Kat: Good clarification there.
Joe: Whole different donation. So I've always loved panda bears. They send you a little thank you note and a picture of panda bears and stuff like that. So I've always loved panda bears, but when I went... the big turning point was in college. Between my junior and senior year[s], I went to China on a study abroad program, and I just roamed around. I took classes and roamed around China and saw so many different panda bears, and pandas are such a huge thing in China. Just the symbolic nature of [them], the physical having of panda bears all over the country. China is very proud of [its] panda bears, and I love them. So that was it. And while I was at the Beijing Zoo I bought this panda bear hat that I thought was just the coolest thing, so I started wearing it around because - I don't know - I'm a weirdo.
Kat: Well, why not, right?
Joe: Yeah, you've got it. You might as well wear it. And it was a pretty unique panda bear hat that could only be bought from the Beijing Zoo, so that was cool.
Kat: Have you received any weird panda gifts from fans? Is this something that they know about?
Joe: Oh, yeah. Constantly. It's great. I have a full...
Laura: What's the weirdest thing a fan has given you?
Joe: Panda related or otherwise?
Laura: Anything. [laughs]
Joe: Really hard to say. I can talk about some of the cool things that fans have given me. Weird ones you just try to ignore.
Joe: But some of the really cool things fans have given me: One person did an oil painting of the Starship premiere and gave that to me. That was incredible. People have done really amazing drawings of me or our crew and given those to us, and those are always so cool. My fans got together and gave me a Build-a-Bear Panda Spider-Man last year at LeakyCon. That was amazing. Somebody gave me a knitted Panda Spider-Man. I just have so many panda bears, it's crazy.
Joe: And so everyone makes fun of me.
Kat: And Panda Spider-Man combinations, it seems like. [laughs]
Joe: Yes. Of course. Why not? I'm a huge Spidey fan as well. He's my favorite superhero. And I make that pretty clear all around, [laughs] so people mash the two up and it's pretty cute.
Kat: This question is from Eric Scull. He says, "What is your favorite Die Hard film?"
Joe: I've got to go with the first one. Alan Rickman, you can't beat him.
Kat: He figured that's what you were going to say. Okay. He also asks - this is crazy, but - "What hair color would you want, if not the one you have?"
Joe: I would like to be a bleach blonde, like Tessa has now or like Riker has, but I think it would look horrible on me. I think I would look really bad because I'm kind of pale, so I can't really do that. But yeah, if I had cool enough hair to do a bleach blonde that would be sweet. I could bleach...
Kat: How do you live in LA and be pale?
Joe: It takes a lot of work, let me tell you.
[Kat and Laura laugh]
Joe: Basically, it's funny, you'd think... and I am more tan than I was in New York because I was definitely a ghost in New York. But most of my work on a day to day basis is not outdoors. So it is nice when I get a chance to get outside, but...
Laura: How are you liking living in LA versus New York?
Joe: I love New York and will always love New York because it's just such a cool city and there's always stuff going on, and I would love to live there again someday, maybe while I was working, doing a Broadway show or something, or any kind of work. It's just an awesome city. It's also very tough on you, especially when you don't have any money.
Joe: It's really, really rough on you. It makes you better, though, I think. It's sort of like a crucible aspect. You go into the fire and come out stronger. So New York is kind of like that. But LA is very enjoyable. The weather is nice. I know a ton of people there. There's a lot more work. I've got wonderful agents here. So it's... [laughs] LA's pretty sweet.
Kat: So we're going to wrap this up, but can you tell fans where they can buy tickets for your show?
Joe: Absolutely. So the big thing I point to is... I have a video out on the top of my YouTube channel, which is thejoemoses, and it's called "The Joe Moses Showses World Tour!" In the description of that video, I have links to every ticketing website for venues that have been announced. So as of... in about an hour and a half, I'm going to release the Chicago one, but right now Boston and New York are available. And the reason that I try to put it there is, each venue has [its] own website. So I can't just be like, "Go to Ticketmaster and search Joe Moses." You have to actually go to the venue's website. Or follow my Twitter or Tumblr. I always post stuff on there. But basically, in that YouTube video, there'[re] all of the links for ticketing.