I fell in love with Kill Tony against my will. It kept popping up in my YouTube suggestions every Monday at 8 o’clock, because that’s when “the number one live podcast in the world” fires up at The Comedy Store in Hollywood, live-streaming around the globe and bringing joy into the hearts of the bored and restless. The show centers around a so-called “Bucket of Destiny,” from which host and creator Tony Hinchcliffe pulls names at random, giving local comedians and wannabe stand-ups a chance at 60 seconds of comedy and 15 minutes of would-be fame. I quickly discovered that the show came packed with a chaotic, genre-defying format, an ever-circulating mixed bag of roast battle punnery, and a deep canon of inside jokes that could rival Monty Python or Whose Line Is It Anyway?
I began tuning in regularly. So regularly did I begin tuning in, that I soon found myself watching past episodes on my phone during work hours, or clocking back into my shift late from a break because I lost track of time (afterall, the series is sitting at 377 episodes and counting, with #378 airing tonight 7/22, featuring comedian Greg Fitzsimmons). I tried to show my roommate, but he didn’t get it at first—how could someone enjoy watching people bomb in front of a global audience one after the other? My response: “How could you not?”
Cut to the April Fool’s Day episode. I somehow managed to win $30 dollars worth of Ticketmaster credit from a Weekly Annotation Competition on ‘genius.com’—you know, the hip-hop analysis site where artists break down their lyrics in front of a yellow background? Anyway, the tickets were supposed to be music-related, so I spun the fact that Kill Tony had a band into three tickets to the live event. I brought my girlfriend and my roommate, promising that they would understand why I loved the show if we attended in-person. Two hours later, our jaws were sore from all the laughter, and we reluctantly got up to leave.
It was at this point that I ran into The Kill Tony Band’s drummer extraordinaire, “Joelberg” Joel Jimenez. A late addition to the show’s format, Joel made his first appearance on episode #142 as a contestant back in February of 2016. He killed his first 60-second set and then-bandleader Pat Regan informed Tony that Joel was the drummer for his side project at the time, The Baby Boys. Twelve episodes later, Joel would join Kill Tony’s live band as a temporary percussionist during episode #154. After making considerable contributions to the comedy element of the show, they gave him his own microphone for episode #200. But it wasn’t until episode #202 that “Joelberg” was truly cemented into the Kill Tony mythos. Following a left-field zinger, Tony Hinchcliffe remarked: “He’s on a Bill Goldberg-like streak… People say that he can’t fail,” to which Joel responded: “[more like] Joel-berg”—and a star was born.
As a drummer myself and a former drum tech, I was fortunate to be able to speak Joel’s language that fateful night: I offered to help him tear down his signature drumkit—part of the new Ludwig endorsement he garnered earlier this year. We discussed the possibility of a One West Magazine feature and he kindly obliged. Having just finished the second leg of the Kill Tony Summer Tour, I was finally able to catch up with him and get the inside scoop on all things Joelberg. Now, without further ado, please enjoy our candid conversation:
1. For those who don’t know, you’re from Frogtown / Northeast LA. What was it like growing up between the freeway and the river?
Growing up in Frogtown was mostly great. It wasn’t always what it is now. I definitely miss a lot of things about the old Frogtown. There’s a lot of people moving in and acting like they discovered it, but we’ve always been here. I grew up being a little shit at the river, skateboarding, having rock fights, and smoking weed in the little islands. We’d have band practice and play backyard shows in the neighborhood. I was also in charge of the skatepark on Marsh Street for almost ten years. I love Frogtown, it’s a great neighborhood and it’s a big part of who I am today.
2. You also dropped out of high school in your sophomore year. May I ask what led to that decision?
It was always boring to me, I hated school from my first day of kindergarten. I don’t think my learning style is a good fit for a classroom. My mom taught me to learn on my own. She worked at the LA Zoo when I was a kid and we had a membership to The Natural History Museum, and we’d go do all kinds of fun, educational things. I always felt that I learned way more from that than sitting at a desk.
3. I heard you were a bit of a class clown in school, but did your sense of humor ever get you out of trouble?
It definitely got me into trouble more often than it got me out of it, but I definitely did talk my way out of getting beat up a few times.
4. Everybody loves your “Joelina” character. I was wondering if she’s based on anyone you actually know or any real life situations…
She is definitely an amalgamation of many different women that I have known throughout my life; relatives, friends, and people from the neighborhood.
5. Another sensation from Kill Tony has been the “Joelberg” chant. I’m sure it’s usually quite flattering, but have there ever been any moments where it became annoying?
I absolutely love it. The only time that it bothers me is when I get it for a joke that I feel wasn’t my best—but even then it still feels pretty good.
6. I want to take a moment to shout out the ‘Comic Routines’ series. A lot of my research for this interview came not only from your episode, but the other cast members’ episodes as well. How did you get linked up with those guys?
I met Dustin Sussman (the director) backstage at The Comedy Store when they were filming Jeremiah’s episode, and I met Tony Savero (camera man and editor) at Dynasty Typewriter (a theatre near Downtown LA). Me and Dustin went to get coffee one morning and talk about me being a part of the series and the rest is history.
7. They also followed me on Instagram immediately after I discovered them, which was a pleasant surprise. And you were quick to follow me as well, after we met at The Comedy Store. I wanted to ask you about your social presence. Do you have any protocol for online interaction, and what do you think of Instagram culture in general?
I don’t really have a protocol for it. I will follow people for a lot of different reasons. I used to try and respond to every message I got, but it’s gotten more difficult to do. I personally really like Instagram, it’s my favorite of all the social media sites. I think it’s a great tool for fan interaction, but like any tool, it depends on how you use it.
8. Fans of the show will know that your regular comic, William Montgomery, has had some strange encounters on the internet (with “CrackerBarrelKid55” and “Dr…Pepper22”)—but I was wondering if you’ve dealt with any of that as Kill Tony continues to rise in popularity…
There have been a few weirdos, but I don’t really pay it much attention. If you do anything that’s in the public eye, there will always be people that have some shit to say. Overall, the feedback I get is pretty positive.
9. During the Milwaukee episode, you sparked a swear-free name-calling competition between some guy named Andrew Martin and the other crew members… And, I must say, it was one of the funniest moments in the whole show. What exactly inspired that idea and will we ever see it again?
He seemed like a really nice, polite guy and I thought it would be funny to see him try to be mean. We get a lot of opportunities to improvise and throw things at the wall to see what sticks. Sometimes it bombs and other times it can be really entertaining. That just so happened to be one of the times it worked out.
10. Now, looking back at your first appearance on the show (back in the Belly Room days) I was extremely impressed by your patience and timing, with the way you delivered your minute. How long had you been doing stand-up by that point?
Thanks! I had been doing stand-up a little over four years.
11. Who are your biggest influences in comedy? Do you have a top five favorite comedians of all time?
My influences are always changing. It’s incredibly hard to list a top five, there are too many to name. I would say, as a kid: Jim Carrey, George Carlin, Chris Rock, In Living Color, Tom Green, and Jackass all influenced me comedically.
12. One West Magazine is all about music culture first and foremost, so I would be remiss not to ask about your musical influences, as well. Can you give us a top five favorite bands; top five favorite drummers; and top five favorite MCs of all time?
This question is so hard to answer, so I’ll just give you a bunch of bands and drummers that got me into playing drums as a kid:
- Black Flag
- The Misfits
- Josh Freese
- Stewart Copeland
- Brooks Wackerman
- Quest love
- Bill Stevenson
- Byron McMackin
Top MCs, in no particular order:
- The Notorious B.I.G.
- Method Man
- Slick Rick
- Kendrick Lamar
- Aesop Rock
13. I also wanted to ask you about the new Ludwig sponsorship. How’re they treating you?
They have been so cool. It’s truly a dream come true. I really appreciate everything they have done for me. It’s been life-changing.
14. Are you looking for other sponsors? Perhaps sticks, cymbals, or drumheads? If so, which brands would be ideal?
15. Lastly, how long do you see yourself doing Kill Tony? And, follow-up question, do you have any other projects in the works that we should know about?
I’d love to do Kill Tony as long as humanly possible. It’s one of the greatest things I have ever been a part of. I’ll rock it till the wheels fall off. I’m constantly working on a bunch of different projects for music and comedy. The best place to hear about everything is my Instagram page. Check me out.